We all know olive oil enhances our cooking experience, but these top olive oils are exclusive and in a class by themselves, winning serious competitions and holding their own when it comes to amplifying the flavor of your fave dish, bread, or vegetable.
Go ahead and drizzle, dip, and enjoy the savory goodness of extra virgin olive oil. You also get the added value of health benefits this little fruit produces.
Are Olives Fruit?
Yes. If it has a thick, hard endocarp, it most likely will be considered a drupe, which is a fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone containing the seed. And this includes olives. Technically, bananas are berries, so it’s no stretch to call olive fruits when you put it in perspective.
What Country Makes The Best Olive Oil?
Spain and Italy, according to the World’s Best Olive Oils, the organization that uses a point system based on 7 international competitions for the highest-ranking olive oils.
WBOO.org only ranks extra virgin olive oil and you’ll see from their list Spain and Italy dominate at the top of the charts. Croatia also is at the top when it comes to world-class production.
When you get down to Oleum viride Belić from Croatia, you’ll see why this country dominates overall when it comes to award-winning production.
The Health Benefits of The World’s Top Olive Oils
Our focus is on the extra virgin olive oils, which gain their status through the process, not by a specific olive, per se. Because the refining process for extra virgin olive oil stays truer to purity, a darker color may be a distinctive factor although it’s not always the case.
Olive oil is graded by its level of acidity or free oleic acid. The amount of free oleic acid in olive oil indicates the extent to which fat has broken down into fatty acids. the highest quality olive oil (extra-virgin olive oil) must feature a free acidity lower than 0.8%.
Refining olive oil removes important antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. The unrefined process is what makes extra-virgin oil maintain its health benefits, as it also keeps more of the natural vitamins and minerals. In other words, Mother Nature already gets it right, why muck with perfection?
Aside from carrying formidable amounts of vitamins E and K, olive oil is also loaded with powerful antioxidants. These are known to reduce risks of cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes among other diseases brought on by free radicals in the body.
In fact, several large studies from the American Academy of Neurology demonstrate that people who consume olive oil have a much lower risk of stroke, the second biggest killer in developed countries.
How Are Olive Oils Judged and Ranked In Competitions?
We’ll stay on point by discussing only the strictest contests – diving in on the international competitions, which are based on the rules of the MARIO SOLINAS QUALITY AWARD.
This award pays tribute to the late Mario Solinas who did so much in the field of research, working closely with the International Olive Council (IOC) to standardize quality criteria. If you haven’t guessed by now, we’ve ventured into the same league as our top California Cult Wines.
Some of the high points regarding the rules are that competitors must only be extra virgin olive oils. They must be produced in the competition crop year from both hemispheres.
They must also comply with the requirements stipulated for this grade in the IOC trade standard applying to olive oils. Each competitor/registered name may enter only one extra virgin olive oil. Choose wisely Spain and Italy, you’ve got a crown to defend.
These top olive oils are ranked on a point system by an international roster of judges, and a secret number is assigned to each brand so there’s no bias.
The winners get a medal and diploma, which have got to rock your olive oil bottle if you slap those accolades on your label.
How Do Judges Taste The Best Olive Oil In The World?
If you want to get snooty and fancy, we can call it an organoleptic analysis, and It’s actually very similar to tasting a fine wine. In a very small glass, swirl it around, sniff the various aromas, and take a sip while inhaling, which will enhance the notes.
What you’re looking for is a slight bitterness or pepperiness, then swallow and take note of the flavors. If you want to taste to impress, use a cobalt blue tasting glass.
Professional olive oil tasters sip from specially designed blue glasses that obscure the color of the oil, preventing preconceptions about the flavor.
Here are step-by-step instructions that’ll have you tasting like a pro. With all that behind us, let’s get into it.
Rincon de la Subbetica is probably the world’s most-awarded olive oil. In fact, this olive oil ranks number 1 using an accumulative point system from 6 of the 7 top International Olive oil competitions.
In a nutshell, the awards list for this finely crafted olive oil is beyond the pale. This includes Best Oil in the World 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 and Best Oil Mill in the World 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Rincon de la Subbetica is made 100% from the Hojiblanca olive (one of 262 Spanish varieties of olives) and produced by Almazaras de la Subbetica, which is located in the Sierras Subbéticas Natural Park, a stunningly beautiful, rugged park located in the heart of Andalucia between the three great cities of Cordoba, Granada, and Seville.
Characteristics of Rincon de la Subbetica
This top olive oil is intensely fruity with aromas of herbaceous plants, thyme, and mint with prominent notes of tomato. The taste is initially sweet with a green almond flavor and a moderately spicy, peppery finish.
The aroma is complex and rich, reminiscent of freshly cut grass, peppermint, thyme, fruit, citrus notes, and tomato.
Don Gioacchino – Italy
Ranking second in the 2020/2021 top olive oil competitions, the producers of this wonderful oil do the milling at the Sabino Leone farm. Produced in a centuries-old grove in the Italian region of Puglia, the farm is managed by the owner Sabino, along with his children.
Second place is nothing to sneeze at. Think of this as the Grand Slam of tennis. This isn’t winning just one competition, but the sum of your rankings in International competitions. That’s a whole lot of winning.
The company is dedicated to the care of their Coratina species olive groves, which consist of 200-year-old trees, and young plants from Peranzana, Carolea, and Frantoio.
The passion for nature combined with the desire to offer an excellent product has led the farm on the road to innovation and soon became one of the most technologically advanced companies.
Sabino Leone was appointed “Il Magnifico” (The Magnificent) at the international competition bearing the same name in 2015, during an award ceremony at the stunning Antinori winery in Tuscany. If your Italian is a little rusty, just refer to this vibrant olive oil as “The Magnificent.” We’ll know what you mean.
Characteristics of Don Gioacchino
This top olive oil is a very complex and harmonious extra virgin olive oil. Scents of green almonds prevail on the nose, accompanied by hints of artichoke stem, tomato leaf, and herbs.
The oil has a very balanced taste, with bitter and spicy notes that hint at wild chicory and bitter almond. It is a monovarietal Coratina that is rich in polyphenols.
You’ll find most of these top producers are a family affair, and Schinosa is no exception. Since 1986 sisters Maria Francesca and Ludovica Di Martino have been running the estate inherited from their ancestors.
Ranking 3rd in rankings in 2020/2021 competitions, their Instagram account showcases the plethora of other awards they can’t seem to get enough of.
Here, a stretch of century-old olive trees is caressed night and day by the wind of the sea. This is Masseria Schinosa. The ancient Apulian estate was founded in 1647 in Trani.
Maria Francesca Di Martino says it best- “Schinosa is the story of a love, of our love for the land and the love of this land for its centenary olive trees.”
If you’re planning on an olive oil tour, there’s an added bonus here at the farm. In the Masseria Schinosa, there is an apartment entirely available to guests.
Built from tuff and stone, you’re also surrounded by the large courtyard, the family church, the splendid garden, the olive groves, and the vineyards.
Characteristics of Schinosa La Coratina
Schinosa is a clear, golden-yellow color with a fine aroma endowed with hints of artichoke and wild chicory with notes of basil and parsley. It has a mellow flavor of country vegetables and a sweet almond finish.
Masoni Becciu produces Ispiritu Sardu olive oil, located on Franca Maria Serra’s farm that’s part of the Sardinian countryside known as Seddanus, near Villacidro. This environment is climatically very favorable to the biological production of choice olive oil.
The extra-virgin oil produced on this farm comes only from organically grown olives and is certified by the AIAB (Italian Association for Biological Agriculture). The olive tree varieties are known as “Nera di Villacidro” and “Nera di Gonnosfanadiga”.
Characteristics of Ispiritu Sardu
The Organic Sardu Inspiritu has a personality that on the nose is expressed with nice fruit, hints of officinal herbs, artichoke, and tomato leaf.
In the mouth it appears gentle at first, then it is enlivened with the great aromatic complexity of almond husk and return of officinal herbs that flank a good bitterness finally covered by a spicy note of medium intensity that persists for a long time.
Bouquet: Full and complex, with just-ripened olives, artichokes, and green apples.
Flavor: full, composite, and sapid, well balanced with bitter and spicy tones.
Croatia’s got more than Game (of Thrones) when it comes to producing the top olive oils in the world, and Oleum viride Belić is one of our top olive oils from this neck of the woods.
The Croatian region of Istria has been declared the best extra virgin olive oil region in the world for the seventh year in a row, by leading guide Flos Olei in their 2022 guide.
Competing against 55 olive-growing countries and up against the renowned growers in Spain and Italy, the Istrian olive growers know how to defend a title, no doubt already flexing their olive oil knowledge muscles for 2023.
A long tradition of top quality, rated with the most prestigious awards, including the coveted Flos Olei and the gold at the New York International Olive Oil Competition 2019.
In the picturesque Istrian olive groves of the regions of Fažana, Galižana, and Peroj, the Belić family initiates the same magic life cycle every year – the cycle from the olive fruit to the olive oil.
The process takes its course with full respect for centuries-old traditions while utilizing the latest ecological agricultural techniques and technologies.
Characteristics of Oleum viride Belić
Oleum viride Belić is their signature product, olive oil that’s a rich, single-sort extra virgin olive oil, that presents itself in a magnificent green color with a wonderful taste and scent of the olive fruit. This oil also offers a scent of vanilla, chicory, and modest bitterness and pungency in the taste.
It would have been anyone’s guess that Italy would dominate the rankings. This might also explain why Chicago pizza and New York slices are world-renowned, importing these top-notch olive oils to use in their pies. But Spain still holds their own, usually ranking number one.
If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of olive oil perfection (and we mean at the scientific level) you can fill your cerebral brain banks with info from Richard Gawel, who works as a consultant and taster for numerous olive oil companies.
Richard is also a long-time appointee as Presiding Judge of most of the major olive oil shows including the Royal Adelaide, Royal Perth, Royal Canberra, and the Australian National Show, and internationally at the New Zealand National and Los Angeles International Extra Virgin olive oil shows. You might say he’s as authentic as our top olive oils in the world.
Armed with all this knowledge, you might be staring at the olive in your martini a little harder now, pondering its journey from tree to martini glass. And the fate of all its other little friends that couldn’t dodge the crushinator.