Greek extra virgin olive oil for the win!

Greece has been celebrated at this year's EVO IOOC Awards in Italy, with 70 per cent of Greek olive oil entries taking out a win

At the EVO International Olive Oil Contest (EVO IOOC) in Paestum, Italy this year, 70 per cent of the Greek extra virgin olive oils that entered won awards.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage site of Paestum – originally the ancient Greek city of Poseidonia in Magna Grecia – formed a striking backdrop for the ceremony where premium Greek olive oils received 52 of the awards.

Greek judge Eleftheria Germanaki reported that 60 Greek extra virgin olive oils (EVOOs) were among the 502 entries representing 156 olive varieties from 20 countries.

Seventeen international judges from eight countries awarded Greek EVOOs 19 gold medals and 23 silvers, plus another four silvers and two golds for flavoured olive oils and Best of Messenia, Best of Crete, Best of Greece, and Best International Monovarietal – Northern Hemisphere distinctions.

Germanaki pointed out that the competition’s two special awards for specific olive-growing regions in Greece are unusual. Moreover, she emphasised “one more great recognition” for Greece this year, with LIÁ Cultivators’ LIÁ Premium Edition winning both a gold medal and the competition’s Best Monovarietal EVOO of the Northern Hemisphere award.

LIÁ Extra Virgin Olive Oil also earned a gold medal.

LIÁ cofounder Cristina Stribacu told Greek Liquid Gold she believes “the unique distinction of the Best in Class award confirms how much excellent work LIÁ Cultivators does in the cultivation and production of the Koroneiki variety.”

She added, “LIÁ receives such great feedback from distributors, international tasters, and consumers who ‘fall in love’ with the gastronomic experience they have when they taste LIÁ.”

To create such wonderful olive oil, Stribacu and her team pay careful attention to “every single detail every moment, every day,” constantly trying to improve.
Their success, she suggests, is due to “our land, our trees, our love, our passion, our expertise, our team, our partners, and foremost our creative spirit, which never stops learning!”

Crediting her region with some of the world’s best olive oil, Stribacu observed that “81 per cent of the brands from Messenia that participated in EVO IOOC have been awarded.”

With more than 25 entries from Messenia, the EVO IOOC presented a Best of Messenia award for olive oils from that part of the Peloponnese peninsula.
Along with a gold medal, this honour went to Dragonas Bros SA for their Angel EVOO (PDO Kalamata).

Alexandros Dragonas told Greek Liquid Gold his family’s 113-year-old company exports EVOO and other all natural traditional products throughout the world. He is very proud to have his family’s many years of efforts to improve their practices and produce high quality products recognised by a number of awards in the last two years.

A member of the Kalamata Tasting Panel, which is recognised by the International Olive Council, Dragonas reports that his company also does chemical tests on their products, and he emphasises EVOO’s wonderful, wide-ranging health benefits.

Another olive oil producer focused on both health benefits and flavour, Eftychios Androulakis, won a gold medal and the Best of Crete Award for Pamako Mountain Bio Blend, as well as a silver for Pamako Mountain Bio Monovarietal. As Androulakis commented, “our pure love and our true innovative passion for olive oil was awarded 18 times this year, and all these feelings are inside our bottles.”

In this “difficult year” for Cretan olive oil, he attributes his success to “hard work, a lot of experiments, the Tsounati olive variety that almost nobody knew five years ago, sleeping in the factory, making innovative machines from scratch, creating olive oil without the pit, using inert gases, freezing the olives before crushing, and many more things!”

He feels a strong sense of “responsibility” to continue providing excellent EVOO in every bottle.

Demonstrating a similar sense of responsibility, Hellenic Fields Ltd triumphed with the Best of Greece Award and a gold medal for Ena Ena Organic PGI Olympia, while their Ena Ena Ultra Superior PGI Olympia won a silver – the latest of many prizes that recognise their “unique gift of nature, our passion for superiority and perfection,” as Nikolas Philippidis says.

“We know and nurture our plants ena ena (one-by-one),” monitoring every step of growth, harvest, production, and bottling,” adds George Moforis.

“We adjust to their special requirements in order to prevent diseases and infestations without chemical pesticides or fertilisers.”

Wild herbs and plants keep their olive groves’ soil fertile, moisturised, and protected.

“We safeguard the vitality of our groves, maintaining and protecting the characteristics of the microclimate and agricultural landscape,” while “safeguarding consumers’ health.”

Another company from the area around ancient Olympia, Papadopoulos Olive Mill, added four more gold medals to its long list of awards this year, with golds for Mythocia Olympia PGI, Mythocia Olympia PGI Organic, Mythocia Omphacium, and Mythocia Omphacium Organic.

George and Polikseni Papadopoulos say they are “really satisfied” with this year’s many honours, which they consider a result of their team’s efforts to show off the quality of their region’s olive oil, and their son Konstantinos’ long-term “love, devotion, and passion for olive oil.”

George believes their awards prove “Greek olive oil can be as good as Spanish and Italian.”

Equally proud of his family’s products and hometown, Diamantis Pierrakos views the two gold medals for Laconiko Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Laconiko Olio Novo as “another testament to the quality that a small producer like ourselves is able to produce consistently!” And he means consistently: “After being recognised in every single competition we have ever sent our olive oil to, we have proved that the small town of Skala, Lakonia in the municipality Evrotas” can produce “a Greek olive oil that has been recognised consistently as one of the best, and will continue to represent our municipality proudly!”

What did they do to create such excellent EVOO?

“Many things; we constantly study and learn the science behind making quality olive oil, starting with the passion and love of our land and olive trees.”

The accomplishments of such passionate producers were highlighted at this third edition of a competition developed and presided over by Dr Antonio Giuseppe Lauro, which was previously known as the Domina IOOC. In Paestum this year, there were seminars for producers, a tasting session for the public, and a very photogenic awards ceremony. Winners’ olive oils will also be featured in the EVO IOOC Buyers Guide 2018, which the competition website describes as “a special guidebook for buyers which will be distributed at International events.”

The EVO IOOC judges at the archaeological site of Paestum in Italy. Photo: Supplied via Eleftheria Germanaki

* Originally published on ‘Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil’. To see the full list of winners, and for recipes with olive oil, photos from Greece, and olive oil news and information, visit greekliquidgold.com.