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Israel Welcomes TerraOlivo 2010

July 25, 2010

Earlier today an international jury of 18 certified olive oil judges began the 3-day process of blind tasting 189 extra virgin olive oils from 14 countries.   I’m at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem attending the 1st annual Mediterranean International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition and Convention, and the judges are very focused.

“We must always start in the morning”, remarked Isabel Mazzucchelli, a chemical engineer who is a professional wine and olive oil taster from Uruguay.  She was referring to the need for her palate to be fresh in anticipation of the 21 extra virgin olive oils that she and five other members of her panel were to taste before lunchtime.

Moshe Spak, TerraOlivo Co-Organizer

TerraOlivo is an offshoot of the annual TerraVino international wine competition according to Chaim Gan.  Chaim, along with Moshe Spak and Raúl César Castellani, are co-organizers and see this competition from the consumer’s point of view.  As Moshe says, “This isn’t about chemical analysis or the label, and this isn’t about the individual country or the judge:  this is about the olive oil.  We are using a slightly modified version of the Mario Solinas rating sheet in our judging, and we are looking forward to publishing the results later this week”.

The response from producers for this first-time  competition was outstanding, with oils from both large and small producing nations put forth including Spain with 61 entries  and Israel with 46.  Italian producers submitted 26 EVOOs,  Portugal 14 and Argentina 13.  Chile and the USA each had 6 entries followed by Uruguay with 5.  Croatia and Greece each had 3 oils submitted, South Africa and Turkey 2, and Malta and Palestine 1 oil each.

Lourdes Toujas, Juror from Argentina, prepares adjudication forms

The olive oils were divided into three classes:  blends, varietals and flavored oils.  Today 63 blends were judged, 21 each by three panels of six jurors.  Mono-cultivars will be judged tomorrow and flavored oils on Tuesday.  On Wednesday TerraOlivo has organized a convention with sessions on olive oil and health, olive oil branding and guided tastings of Israeli EVOOs.

After a welcome by the organizers, the jurors reviewed and discussed the official rating sheet in English and Hebrew with Dr. Fathi Abd El-Hadi, creator and taste panel leader for the Israeli Olive Oil Tasting Panel.  Afterwards, the judges calibrated their palates amongst themselves with a blended EVOO  comparing scores and discussing them prior to the start of the judging.

Three panels were commissioned for this historic event, with judges from Israel, Spain, Italy, Uruguay and Argentina, including many eminent olive oil professionals, such as Dr. Shimon Lavee, Professor Emeritus at Hebrew University and leader in the field of olive physiology, breeding and agronomic development.  If you’ve ever had olive oil made from Barnea olives you’ve enjoyed his work!

“The response from growers has been outstanding”, according to Moshe Spak.  “Producers recognize that consumers look to these competitions as part of their decision making process.”

Jesus Santolaya Heredero warms sample #1

Jesus assesses aroma before tasting

Results will be announced at a gala awards ceremony on Wednesday night. For more information click

Tomorrow:  TerraOlivo Day #2:  Variety is the Spice of Life

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. Al Hamman permalink
    July 25, 2010 5:07 PM

    Hey, you intrepid traveler, have you heard anything from the American Indian Commission about the press jaunt?


    • July 25, 2010 5:10 PM

      Hi Steve, Yes they contacted me again to remind me to turn in my paperwork, but I had to decline the opportunity. The week of the press tour conflicted with my other commitments. Are you going?

  2. July 25, 2010 5:22 PM

    Hello my friend. It is good to hear about your latest journey. Your writing, as always, is terrific and you bring the reader to the heart of what you are witnessing. I hope you begin to submit your writings to food and travel publications – their readers would benefit from your observations!

    All the best!

    • July 27, 2010 12:22 AM

      Dear Mike, thanks for subscribing, and thanks also for your encouragement!

  3. Jaynet Tagami permalink
    July 25, 2010 6:03 PM

    My shopping list: Olive oil made from Barnea olives . . . Liz, great intro to this exciting
    international olive oil competition in Jerusalem. Thank you!

    • July 27, 2010 12:24 AM

      I hope that you have the chance to try many different varietals and blends. There’s a wide world of olive oil out there waiting to be discovered!

  4. Sarah Chironi permalink
    July 25, 2010 9:18 PM

    Hello Liz,
    It’s always great to hear of your adventures, this one in particular. I’ll look forward to hearing more details about the event.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    • July 27, 2010 12:26 AM

      Ciao Sarah, As always, it is nice to hear from my olive oil friends. I try to achieve a balance so that these essays are accessible to non-industry readers, but still interesting to the olive oil community. I’m very much looking forward to writing about the history and culture of Jerusalem.

  5. July 26, 2010 12:49 AM

    Hi Liz,
    As usual attending all exciting events about olive oil. I like very much your publication and I am waiting for results and your own comparison with Tunisian Olive Oil.
    Thank You !

    • July 27, 2010 12:29 AM

      Salaam Alaykum my Sfaxian friend! As you know, extra virgin olive oil is a cool place to be these days. I’m enjoying every minute. I think it would be great to see 100% Tunisian EVOOs at this competition next year! No Chemlali or Chetoui this year; perhaps you can arrange it for 2011. See you online!

  6. July 26, 2010 7:11 AM

    Sounds like a fantastic event, wish I was there. Prof. Shimon Lavee is not only an expert in olives but a very kind person. Although he never met me, he took the time to explain the local varieties of olives, what can be made into table olives, what can be pressed for oil.
    I tend to favor strong tasting olive oils such as that made from Souri olives.

    • July 27, 2010 12:33 AM

      Dear Sarah, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. Yes, Professor Lavee is a very kind person. I feel privileged to watch him work and also to spend a short time speaking with him. Souri olive oil is a new varietal for me. I will taste them for the first time tomorrow in Tel Aviv at Olia. I hope you enjoy my future posts on food, wine and travel.

  7. July 26, 2010 10:11 PM

    Hi Liz,

    Your writing is very amazing!

    I learn the world from your travel.

    Thank you!!

    • July 27, 2010 12:35 AM

      Nihao Ada! Xie xie ni for your kind comments. Is Chao Yi reading these also? Take care and hope to see you soon — anyway I will see you hear on line. Thanks for being a subscriber.


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