“We know we have quality oil. It has been awarded at local competitions, but this is above all our expectations,” 25-year-old Ante Šišak told Olive Oil Times after hearing the news of his 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition recognition. “It’s a dream come true.”
The producer behind OPG Šišak from Dubravice, a small town in the largest Croatian olive growing region, Dalmatia, won a Gold Award at the world’s largest and most prestigious olive oil quality competition held annually in New York.
I want to continue the family tradition. My grandfather, great-grandfather and older ancestors were engaged in olive growing…and the award in New York is a dream come true.
“Winning the prize in the competition of 1,244 olive oils from 28 countries is a great recognition and a great marketing step forward,” Šišak said. “Now our oil is even more valuable.”
He knows that the oils awarded at the NYIOOC are included in the 2022 edition of the Official Guide to the World’s Best Olive Oils. The competition’s results are monitored by manufacturers, importers, distributors, chefs, hospitality experts and worldwide.
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“We will also receive a statuette and a sticker, which will adore our award-winning oil,” Šišak added.
Like many of this year’s award-winning producers, he has an interesting story. Šišak was born in Ploče in the extreme south of Croatia, where his parents, mother Vera and father Nikola, still live.
When Šišak turned 18, he moved to Dubravice, where his grandparents lived. “I live here alone, but I’m not alone,” Šišak said. He is a professional chef with eight years of experience, but his love and future are olives and olive oil.
“I want to continue the family tradition,” he added. “My grandfather, great-grandfather and older ancestors were engaged in olive growing.”
Respecting this tradition, OPG Šišak produces organic extra virgin olive oil obtained exclusively by the mechanical cold-pressing process.
The producer owns three olive groves with more than 130 olive trees. Some olive groves are inherited, while one is a new plantation. Regardless, his groves increase in size each year near Krka national park.
While Šišak has enjoyed this steady growth, he believes that he must expand the groves more quickly.
His main obstacle to this is the land, much of which is uncultivated. However, the state does not want to sell.
Near Skradin, in central Dalmatia’s Sibenik-Knin County, about 15,600 hectares of state-owned land are suitable for planting and growing crops. Experts have calculated that as many as 322,320 new olive trees can be planted on this land, which is overgrown with forests, bushes and meadows.
“State land is not possible [to purchase] due to legal ambiguities and administrative obstacles,” Šišak said.
Along with this obstacle, he added that there is not enough available land to take advantage of current Croatian and European rural development funds to expand.
“Uncultivated land is dead capital,” he said.
Šišak did not go to Germany or any other European country to make a living as many young Croats have done.
“There is nothing better than working on your property and making a living from your work,” Šišak said.
By buying or renting state land, he wishes to continue to increase olive groves in what he describes, and the NYIOOC validates, as an incredibly apt place to produce high-quality olive oil.
The Mediterranean climate and soil are ideal for olive growing, and the Krka river is famous for its beautiful waterfalls. It also provides the opportunity to irrigate. “Without irrigation, there is no success,” Šišak said.
He still uses the drip irrigation system, which he is credited for a consistent harvest every year.
Šišak prefers to grow the local autochthonous varieties Oblica, Krvavica, Lastovka, Levantinka, Buža, Istraska Anjelica, Buhar and Kosmač, all of which are certified organic.
Šišak earned his Gold Award at the NYIOOC for a medium blend comprising the aforementioned varieties, which stands out for its balanced bitterness and piquancy and richness of taste and aroma.
The NYIOOC judges also emphasize the taste sensations of green almonds, tomato leaves and ripe notes of tomatoes and pine nuts.
“Oil is the god of the gods, and the award in New York is a dream come true,” Šišak said, indicating that this award was a stepping stone for his work in olive growing and oil production to continue. Despite obstacles from the state.