How an Award-Winning Olive Oil is Made from Harvest to Consumption
This slow period offers California olive oil producer time to taste the oils that they have created for the year and begin getting an idea of which ones to combine for the best olive oil competitions.
At the beginning of harvest every year, California olive producers have a decision to make about how we want to use the olives for oil.
Making olive oil earlier in the season when the olives are unripe results in a more robust, pungent, bitter and a healthier olive though it is more expensive to make (less gallons per ton of olive fruit).
Waiting longer into the season when the olive ripens means we get a smoother, softer oil and it is cheaper to make.
Both oils are helpful when creating a line of award-winning olive oils.
More pungent and bitter oils offer a good skeletal structure for the flavor profile and when well made, this can be an award-winning oil such as our Early Harvest.
However, in order to create a more well-rounded olive oil, a later harvest is often mixed with the early harvest and blended together. The later harvest will add suppleness and a softness to the oil giving it a more complex flavor, such as our Estate Blend.
Depending on the olive variety, a semi-ripe olive can also result in a complex, well-rounded oil.
Typically, it takes 3-5 months for olive oil to settle into the fullest expression of itself before each subtle nuanced flavor can be well appreciated and savored. Therefore, the majority of olive oil competitions take place 3-5 months after harvest is complete.
How are olive oils at competitions judged?
At the competitions, fresh olive oils are judged by intensity – robust, medium and delicate.
- In Europe, this refers to the fruitiness of the olive oil.
- In the U.S we are referring to bitterness. Whatever your preference, the experience of tasting a fresh, award-winning olive oil will make you feel like a gold medal winner yourself (which you are)!
Olio Nuovo is out of this world, but in order for the full bouquet of flavors to bloom and express themselves, time is necessary, and this is precisely why olive oil competitions take place a good 4 months after harvest. We will be competing at this year’s NYIOCC – the largest olive oil competition in the world.
In the meantime, during the months of January and February is a perfect time for us California olive farmers to catch up on our ZZZ’s after the intensive and fulfilling days of harvest.