The L.A. County Fair, in conjunction with the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), will host the sixth annual Olive Oils of the World competition during the 2005 L.A. County Fair Wines of the World competition at Fairplex in Pomona, California, May 11-13.
In just five short years, the olive oil competition has gained the reputation of being a premier event that brings together the finest international and domestic oils and an impressive panel of professionals to judge them.
The competition has grown into a huge success, beginning in 2000 with a mere 28 entries. Last year saw nearly 240 entries, with about half of those consisting of international oils.
The extra virgin olive oil competition will be judged in two categories – domestic and international – and will be separated according to cultivar (olive varietal). Only extra virgin oils that have been chemically analyzed with free fatty acid levels of one percent or less are eligible.
Flavored olive oils will also be judged. These flavors can range from various citrus flavors to herb flavors.
New this year is the Tuscan Challenge. Separate from the competition, the challenge will pit medal winners from the Fair’s competition with those mentioned in the Wine Spectator article “The Liquid Gold Standard,” which claims that Tuscan extra virgin olive oil is the best in the world.
Once again Roberto Zecca, past president of the COOC and an accomplished grower and producer of olive oil in both Italy and California, is chairman of the olive oil competition. He is also an internationally recognized accredited professional olive oil taster.
The California Olive Oil Council, in cooperation with the University of California at Davis, created the first official olive oil Panel of Tasters in the United States. The panel is the only officially recognized group in the United States to receive
certification from the International Olive Oil Council in Madrid, Spain. This recognition was received in 2001.
Following the blind tasting model established in Madrid, the judges use special opaque blue tasting glasses made in Spain so they will not be swayed by color. Each judge tastes the olive oil and makes selections independently. After all the olive oils have been tasted, they work together in determining the awards. Between individual tastings, the judges eat green apples or plain bread and water to clean their palate.
Twelve years ago there were only three or four fine olive oils produced in California. Today, there are more than 100 California-label olive oils and approximately 500,000 gallons of extra virgin olive oil produced in the state.
According to Zecca, California has soil and climate conditions that are compatible with raising olives commercially. Furthermore, the popularity of cholesterol-free olive oil in a health-conscious society has contributed to the industry’s growth.
The public will be able to taste the award-winning olive oils at the L.A. County Fair Sept. 9 – Oct. 2 at Fairplex. For entry information on the Olive Oils of the World competition or the Wines of the World competition, please call (909) 865-4231, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Web site at www.fairplex.com/wine. For general information on the L.A. County Fair, visit the Web site at www.lacountyfair.com. chinabnr.c