Championship of Spanish Olive Oil Tasters held in Priego de Córdoba
There are few things on Earth that can bring people together like a good competition. During the 2010 World Cup, for example, bars across Spain overflowed with both nationals and foreigners cheering for their countries´ teams. In the end, some were disappointed, others were filled with a rare national pride, and a few couldn´t get past how Octopus Paul called the games. Nonetheless, just for a moment, we were all together sharing a beer and exchanging stories with someone that wasn´t from our country. Yes. Competitions unite us.
We screamed at the television telling the player what they should do better, “Look wide! Run, run.” Luckily, at halftime, the coach conveyed our remarks to the players and the team. Competitions improve our individual and team abilities.
The world of olive oil is often a difficult one in which countries and even regions within the same country are vying for markets. This day-to-day routine can often divide us more than it brings us together.
Fortunately, olive oil competitions like the ones that will be held in New York and Los Angeles in the coming weeks offer producers a way to come together, get to know one another, and identify areas for improvement.
However, up until more recently, there were few international opportunities for olive oil tasters to meet one another, experience oils from other countries, and compete against each other to hone tasting skills.
This past Friday, Spanish olive oil tasters where given the opportunity to compete in The First National Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tasting Team Championship. The event, that took place in the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) Headquarters of Priego de Córdoba, was organized by The Association for Quality Control and Promotion of Oils from Priego de Córdoba (ASCCAL) and Extra Virgin Olive Savantes.
Tasters were tested individually as well as within teams of three. During individual assessments, participants were evaluated on their abilities to rank rancidity as well as intensity; identify the unalike olive oil in a group of three (triangle test); detect faults; and show their knowledge on regional world varieties. To judge teamwork, each group was given the same blend and asked to recognize the three out of five olive oils used in the blend.
Upon speaking with participants after the assessments, everyone agreed that they had a wonderful time. Many expressed gratitude for being able to partake in such an event and said they would be just as happy if they didn’t receive the honor of being classified as an Associate Savante or Savante. However, after a tour of Priego and a lunch of local tapas, participants started getting more nervous about the outcomes.
By 5pm the results were in. The team that scored the highest was made up of three men from the area: Fermín Rodríguez, José Antonio Torres, and Andrés Rivadeneira. Mr. Rodriguez, member of the Priego PDO panel and Director of Vizcántar, was classified as a Savante, scoring the highest individual mark yet, 28 points. The team of runners-up was comprised of three women: Cristina Garrida, Patricia Gámez Tena, and Laura Gonzalez.
Unfortunately, not everyone could be on the winning team. However, at the very least, all participants improved their tasting ability, learned about local and world varieties, met new friends, and, of course, became more driven to compete again next year.
Special recognition for excellence must be given to Francisca García González, Secretary General of The Regulatory Council of The PDO Priego de Córdoba; Rafael Muela, Tasting Panel Member for PDO Priego de Córdoba; Brígida Jiménez Herrera, Director of IFAPA and olive oil expert; José María Penco, an agronomist with AEMO, the Spanish Association of Olive Municipalities; and Simon Field, organizer of Savantes.