At the 4th edition of the Athena International Olive Oil Competition this spring, Greek olive oils took home 65 medals and a number of special awards. Judged by 20 tasters from a dozen nations at the first parliament building of modern Greece in Nafplio, 364 olive oils from 14 countries vied for prizes. Some of the top Greek winners discussed their commitment to producing high quality extra virgin olive oils.
The most highly awarded Greek oil was One & Olive’s Koroneiki extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) from Messinia, Peloponnese. It earned a Double Gold medal and numerous other distinctions, including Best EVOO from Greece and Best Koroneiki worldwide. Dimitris Anagnostopoulos explained that One & Olive has its roots in an ancestor’s establishment of “the first olive mill in the mountains of Messinia in 1896.” Ever since Papa-Apostolis Anagnostopoulos, the village clergyman, opened that mill, his descendants have been “dedicated to olive oil production and authenticity.”
The One & Olive company was established after Dimitris Anagnostopoulos fell in love with Maria Anagnostopoulos, a Greek American with roots in Messinia who happened to share both his last name and his passion for “the Greek countryside, history, and lifestyle.” The couple decided to create “a symbol of their unique love – One & Olive, inspired by the one & only love they found and shared, inspired by their passion for Greece and its fruits.”
Now the company has added innovation to love and tradition in their own mills and factory, with a “pioneering production process which reduces the production time by 86% and minimizes contact with oxygen, ensuring a high quality across harvest periods.” By minimizing the malaxation of the olive paste, the One & Olive team creates “enriched aromas and balanced olive oil” while conserving energy and water, thus “promoting sustainable development for future generations.”
Another company dedicated to sustainable development and innovation, Terra Creta, won two Gold Medals for their Grand Cru and Terra Creta PDO Kolymvari EVOOs, plus a Best in Crete award for the Grand Cru. As Emmanouil Karpadakis informed Greek Liquid Gold, “the Grand Cru EVOO is not only a new product, but the result of a totally new approach we developed last year in cooperation with our agronomists and a dedicated team of farmers, as well as a more quality oriented new production line in our olive mill. By implementing more sophisticated harvesting and extraction techniques, we managed to produce a monovarietal extra virgin olive oil with a more unique and exciting organoleptic character and a higher level of phenolic compounds.”
Fotis Sousalis added that Terra Creta has already won 40 awards, but that “doesn’t mean we should stop evolving, stop progressing.” Rather, the company continues to expand their cooperation with farmers, agronomists, and an oleologist from Tuscany. This collaboration, combined with their vertical organization, gives them the flexibility to provide “what the consumer wants in different countries.” Sousalis expects they will be able to offer “very high quality in very big volumes in the coming years” as more contract farmers work with their agronomist, so they can provide “a premium brand in a quantity that makes sense” for large-scale retailers.
Peter Liokareas mentioned that Liokareas, a small family business, is also “focused on high quality as well as high levels of production.” Their Gold Medal for their Koroneiki Early Harvest EVOO, their Silver for their Late Harvest Orange flavored oil, and their Bronze for Liokareas Wild reward that emphasis on quality. Liokareas credits their “traditional ‘small batch’ format,” modern technology, continuing education, and constant monitoring of their olive trees in Messinia, Peloponnese, for their success. Moreover, at 400 meters, their olives groves’ “altitude is critical and helps us to mitigate unexpected weather conditions and the fruit fly. But most important is our history, as we have been doing this for over 5 generations and hundreds of years. We learn something new every season, and we make sure that we get better every year.”
Another company with olive groves on hills and mountains, some accessible only by donkey or mule, won awards for their flavored olive oils. Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises’ Acaia Flavored with Grapefruit & Βergamot captured a Gold Medal, as it did at last year’s Athena International Olive Oil Competition (ATHIOOC), while Acaia Flavored with Oregano took home a Silver. These condiments are made by adding all-natural essential oils to subtly flavored, well balanced healthy oils from the Kolovi olive that is native to Lesbos. In spite of the generally poor olive harvest in Lesbos, Ellie Tragakes reported, “we were very fortunate in that by taking the necessary precautions to protect our own olive trees against the olive fruit fly, we were able to produce high quality oil once again.”
A second flavored Greek olive oil earned a Gold Medal at ATHIOOC: Pellas Nature Chios Mandarin Olive Oil, a new product that blends Koroneiki oil from Messara, Crete with mandarin oranges from Chios. As Ioanna Diamanti revealed to Greek Liquid Gold, “the idea for the product came during a visit to the island of Chios, when all the orchards where full, and the fragrance created a magical atmosphere.” This inspired the Pellas Nature team to “‘capture’ this fragrance” from fresh Chios mandarins, and put it in olive oil. That way, they can share with “consumers anywhere in the world the flavor of the Chios island paradise.” Diamanti credits the company’s “innovative production method,” the location, and the cultivation method for their products’ taste and quality, with “commitment” most important of all.
Commitment was essential this year. American olive oil judge, consultant, and Extra Virgin Alliance co-founder Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne said “this was clearly a difficult year for some regions, but there were some beautiful oils produced in spite of the adverse conditions. Those producers who overcame the obstacles of this challenging season deserve high praise for their good work and attention to detail.”
All the award winning extra virgin olive oils were available for tasting at the Athena IOOC’s annual all-day public tasting event at the Grande Bretagne Hotel in Athens before the awards ceremony.
For more news and information from the Greek olive oil world, plus agrotourism and food tourism suggestions, recipes with olive oil, and photos from Greece, see Greek Liquid Gold Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil’s website at greekliquidgold.com.