Greeks proudly proclaim their olive oil the world's best – the country's symbol could be the olive tree – but companies who failed to market the precious commodity have ceded the sector to other countries such as Spain, and now when Greek olive oils won far fewer awards at the recent Athena International Olive Oil Competition (ATHIOOC) held in the coastal town of Naufplio.
The number of prizes there was a 40 percent drop in prizes won by Greek entries despite the higher number of participants, with Greek contestants getting Bronze medals, 32 Silver, five Gold and one Double Gold, said Kathimerini in a report.
The prize for best olive oil in the competition went to Conde de Mirasol from Cordoba in Spain’s Andalusia region, made from the Hojiblanca variety, while the best Greek olive oil prize went to One & Olive from the southwestern Peloponnesian region of Messinia. It was also the only local brand to take the Double Gold (for those that receive a score of 95-100 points).
Made using the Koroneiki variety, this olive oil’s success lies in the way it is processed at the company’s facility in the village of Manesi, owner Dimitris Anagnostopoulos, told the paper, showing the quality of local products compared to mass-market oils that dominate market shelves, leaving little room for top-grade smaller-batch competitors.
“If you cut into an apple and leave it sitting on the table for half an hour, it will start to go brown and lose its nutrients as the oxidation process gets under way. The same is the case with olives and their oil. At our mill, the olive is cracked, turned into paste and ground for just 30 second in a process that doesn’t take more than 14 minutes in total,” he said, explaining that the method ensures the oil retains all of its nutrients and flavor.
“A lack of training is a very big problem in our parts,” said Anagnostopoulos, referring to what is one of Greece’s most famous famous olive oil producing regions. “But every expert you ask has a different opinion, so you end up getting confused. This is why I believe it is important for us to form small groups of producers to work together.”
Anagnostopoulos said he's glad for the award and hopes it will bring some business. “Consumers will obviously prefer a product that has been awarded over one that hasn’t,” he told the paper.
Olvio, an olive oil produced on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, has garnered a bigger share of the market over the last 12 years after winning awards and now is exported to 12 countries, showing the value of the honor.
“Our olive oil has received 45 awards since 2009,” said Michalis Tzortzis, the company’s owner, who cultivates olive trees in the area of Komi, eastern Lesvos. Made mostly with the Adramytini variety, Olivio also took the Bronze at this year’s ATHIOOC.
The bulk of the firm’s olive oil today goes to Central Europe and while Tzortzis is aware of the benefits of branching out into online sales, the company’s small size makes it difficult to offer a product tailored to different needs.
“You need labels in different languages and different types of packaging for each country,” he explains, describing some of the changes the company had to make in order to increase exports. “But being at the top and having a steady and successful presence at competitions helps a lot. It makes sellers and consumers trust you.”
The results of the ATHIOOC were published on the event’s website at www.athenaoliveoil.gr. The judging committee gave out a total of 46 Bronze medals, 71 Silver, 76 Gold and eight Double Golds.
Apart from Greece, which represented 51 percent of the products in the competition, another 179 samples were flown in from Argentina, France, Israel, Italy, Croatia, Morocco, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Turkey, Tunisia and Chile.