At IL Fiorello we consider olive oil competitions very important for one major reason, to make sure our oils are as good as, or better than, the rest of the oils in the world.
Just last year we won 24 individual awards. It is so important to benchmark our oils with others.
Medals are wonderful to display, but the quality of the oils speak for themselves. The real question is how to make a decision about what oils go to what competitions.
How do we decide what oils and what competitions to enter? We have 19 oils for presentation this year. Most companies make 2 or 3 oils. That is what makes us very unique in this business, a large number of single varietal oils for presentation. We are considering entering 7 competitions this year, including the New York International Olive Oil Competition, the Los Angeles International Competition, the Yolo County Fair (the oldest competition in California), Napa, and a few other selected events.
So how do we begin this process?
To start we have all our oils certified extra virgin. We submit the oils to a required chemistry test that certifies the quality of the oils. This chemistry panel also accompanies the oils to each competition for verification of extra virgin status.
Next we have all the oils taste tested by a professional panel of certified tasters from the Applied Sensory Panel, led by Sue Langstaff. Ms. Langstaff is the Panel leader and editor of the internationally known book, Olive Oil Sensory Science.
Next, with our staff we convene a review meeting to assess the results of the mandated certification process.
The next step is to make a grid of all the competitions, the judges, and our past awards.
Our staff then re-tastes the oils that won from last year and then re- taste the oils we made this year, one more time. Senior staff then analyze the responses. We compare all the results and make decisions about each oil and each competition.
Another significant factor is to assess the budget for competition entries. Each competition requires at least 2 bottles of oil and entry fees ranging between $80 and $300 per sample. Add the shipping fees and you have a considerable expense.
Then you wait to hear the results. It is a roll of the dice.
So far, we have been very successful in competitions. This year is another year and time will tell.
So enjoy the oil, use it well and often in good health.