The Sol d'Oro Northern Hemisphere Competition saw extra virgin olive oils from Italy come out well ahead of Spain by taking 9 medals out of the 15 at stake, also withstanding stiff competition from samples entered from France, Portugal, Tunisia, Greece, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany and Chile. This success is the result of the immense professionalism of Italian olive growers and oil-makers, in managing even to make the most of a production campaign penalised by bad weather and very low output in some regions. Italian olive oils were also in the limelight as regards special mentions: out of 59 assigned, 41 went to Italian companies and 18 to international producers. Puglia is the region that took the most awards 4 medals and 9 special mentions , followed by Campania 2 medals and, respectively, with one medal each, Tuscany plus 7 special mentions , Sicily 5 grand mentions , Trentino 5 special mentions , Abruzzo 4 special mentions and Sardinia. On the opening day of the International Exhibition of Quality Agro-Foods Sunday 7 April , the 16 finalists of "absolute beginners" will be assessed by a quality jury comprising technicians, restaurateurs and trade journalists. They will reach an overall "pleasure" judgement that ideally will help the small producers who took up the quality challenge understand if they are also making an appealing product in marketing terms.
According to allegations in Italian press reports, an analysis of samples from all seven brands found that they did not meet EU labelling rules for extra virgin olive oil. One of the companies under investigation, Coricelli, said the inquiry was based entirely on taste tests by professional tasters that could not reliably discern whether the oil met industry standards. The other companies under investigation did not respond to requests for comment. Extra virgin is the highest quality olive oil, and consequently the most expensive. It comes from the first press of healthy olives, and has a maximum acidity of 0. Virgin olive oil, which is hard to find in a supermarket, is of a slightly lower quality, with a more acidic flavour, while plain olive oil is refined and often treated with chemicals and deodorised to mask the taste of rancid, spoilt oil. It is not the first time that Italian olive oil has come under scrutiny.
Grown and pressed in the best olive regions of Italy, our extra-virgin oil features a smooth, balanced taste and a nice, spicy finish. The olives are harvested at optimal ripeness. Then the entire olive pulp, skin and pit is crushed and gently mixed to allow the various flavor components to permeate deep into the oil. The result is a richer oil full of fruity notes. The flavor is balanced by a mild bitterness with just a touch of spiciness in the long-lasting finish.