July 01, 2005
It was our pleasure to attend the Der Feinschmecker Olio 2005 Exhibition in Munich on June 4th & 5th. My husband (French) & I (American) bought our olive farm in Provence France in May of 2004. We had our first harvest in the fall and winter, in the spring Mas Des Bories finally had some olive oil in bottles, with our newly redesigned labels.
Cornelia & Theo Mainz of The Choserie
Reigelesberg Germany Munich Germany at the Olio Exposition
The previous owner died just a few weeks before the final sale of the olive farm and the widow claimed that the Customer List was all in her husband’s head. We found every competition that was free or low cost to enter our olive oil in. We were extremely motivated seeing as we had not one single customer. Mas Des Bories was pleased to receive in the mail an entry form from Der Feinschmecker out of Hamburg Germany. Even better, there was no cost to enter, yeah!, our type of competition. From the internet we were able to gleam that Der Feinschmecker was a Gourmet Dining and Food magazine. We soon found out that they were not just any magazine, in fact they are the largest in Europe having a circulation about 30% bigger than U.S. Bon Appetite or Gourmet magazine. Seeing as how Germany doesn’t produce any olive oil we wondered about the competition itself, how competitive would it be, how fair, who would judge? Who enters in this competition anyway?
Just under 600 of the top quality olive oil growers and producers entered the competition. Just looking at the French entries that we knew and recognized, verified for us that this was indeed a Big Time, prestigious competition and we would be contending against the best in the world. We did not attend the judging but were told by Der Feinschmecker that the judging was blind judging with professional judges brought in from Spain, Greece, Italy and a German judge.
Mas Des Bories was pleased to place well in the February 7th competition; it was distinguished as One of the Best Olive Oils in the World, placing in the top ten percent of all the entries. We were ecstatic that after looking for 5 years for the perfect olive farm in Provence with a criterion that the oil must be spectacular, and making a transatlantic move, that Mas Des Bories olive oil was selected as one of the Best in the World. Although we didn’t have any customers in February, at least we had validation that we were producing superior oil.
The Der Feinschmecker recognition was what made it possible to attract dealers in Germany. It didn’t take too long and we had a few stores and finally a good German distributor. Kersten Wetenkamp, the Food and Wine Editor told us that we should attend the Der Feinschmecker Olio Exhibition in Munich, he said it was important for us to attend. He said that the Olio in Munich would be attended by at least 2,000 of the German public and others who are olive oil connoisseurs and buyers. This was their third year hosting the event and the first time in Munich. We would have an opportunity to meet distributors and it was just generally the best Olive Oil Event in Germany and also one of the top in the world.
We debated and debated, after all it had an 800 € fee for a table, plus there would be hotel and gas expense. Cornelia Mainze who owns the Chooserie store in Riegelsberg, and was our first customer in Germany, and her husband Theo, came and stayed with us on the olive farm for a visit. Together we struck a deal and decided together to take a table at the Der Feinschmecker Olio in Munich.
125 Tables of Olive Oil Producers
We left Friday about 12:30pm from Salon de Provence France and drove across Switzerland and into Austria. We made a delivery to a new customer in Austria and spent the night there. We left about 8:30 in the morning and arrived at the location in Munich for the Expo about 10:30am. The impeccable building was on an island in the middle of a river. As soon as we walked in we could see that this was going to be a very classy event. All the tables were skirted, and caterers prowled the floor in their Der Feinschmecker aprons filling up the bread baskets at every table. Der Feinschmecker provided a small live olive tree on every table, they provided the tasting dishes, bottles and bottles of water and bread. All the producers had to bring was oil. Thankfully I had made up some gift baskets which brought a bit of interest to our table. We also bit the bullet and ordered a big vinyl advertising banner which we were able to hang up on the wall behind our table.
Cornelia really wanted to man the table herself, and because we were not German speaking we agreed with her concept. We were worried, would anyone even stop at our table? Would people buy our oil? There were 125 tables of people selling olive oil, would the German olive oil connoisseurs buy Mas des Bories? It was a relief to us when we watched Cornelia from across the room and she was selling customer after customer.
Winners of Top Ten Olive Oils in the World
Mr. Anagnostakis with his brand of “Terra Creta” from Crete selected as #1
Center in tan suit
Everything about the event was top shelf very classy. On Saturday Der Feinschmecker awarded their rankings of the Top Ten, and the Best Oils by country. Best Oil of Greece, Best Oil of Italy etc. I’ll never forget the look on the man’s face who won the number one spot for Best Oil in the World. He was from Crete and his suit was a bit wrinkled, I looked at his hands and saw the hands of a working man. He didn’t speak any German or English (the presentations are all in English since it would not make sense to have them in German because there are no German oil producers) but he knew that he won, and when he went up on the podium to collect his award the look on his face was one of humility, surprise and gratitude. I was very happy for him, very happy. I related to him because I know how hard he works, what care he takes during the growing, picking and pressing processes to make your oil the best it can be, to put into the bottle a pure product. His name is Mr. Anagnostakis and his product is Terra Creta.
It was interesting to see that the Italians, Spanish and Greek producers were all very dressed up in suites and ties, and to a man, all the French were in blue jeans and work shirts. The show was great!!! I sampled probably 50 different oils and can really see the difference and taste the quality of the best oils. The best oils are light, complex, fruity with no green bitter olive taste, and have a wonderful wonderful flavor. Full flavored but complex and light. I also learned that all Extra Virgin Olive Oil, is going to have a bit of a pepper taste that stays at the back of your throat. In some oils the pepper is almost unbearable in others it is a surprise you are not expecting because it happens a few seconds after you have enjoyed the complexity of the oil and then swallowed. I met an Italian producer who had her First Place Ribbons from the Los Angeles County Fair proudly displayed on her table.
It is rather remarkable, after you try so many different oils, you really are able to become a connoisseur and I think that is the best experience I took away from the event. The chance to taste the world’s best oils and other oils that are good and the ability to discern. You only get that opportunity at an exposition like the Der Feinschmecker Olio which is attracting the best. In fact olive oil tasting very much like wine tasting. Different oils are produced using different varieties of olives, just like wines use different varieties of grapes, the Chardonay grape, the pinot noir etc.
There is no cash prize that comes along with the competition, but what you take away is a sense of pride, pride in your work and pride in your olive oil. When an outside organization like Der Feinschmecker comes along and publicly recognizes you and your product it just makes you feel proud.