For the first time in thirteen years, a Greek olive oil company won first prize at the Mario Solinas Quality Award, which many consider the world’s most prestigious olive oil contest. Terra Creta’s Grand Cru extra virgin olive oil captured First Prize in the “mild green fruitiness” category. Another Greek company, Agriston, was one of just ten finalists.
Organized by the International Olive Council (IOC), the Mario Solinas Quality Award is the gold standard for the olive oil world. The IOC is the intergovernmental organization that develops the guidelines for the olive oil industry in all its member countries (including the European Union). Other international competitions sometimes boast of copying elements of Mario Solinas, but none of them are viewed as quite so strict or demanding.
For this competition, the rules state that a notary must go to a company’s olive oil tank, which must hold at least 3,000 liters of olive oil, to collect and certify the samples that will enter the contest. The notary must then seal the tank until the competition is over. The flavor and aroma of the oils are judged by an international jury selected by the IOC’s Executive Secretariat.
“Mario Solinas is considered the number one olive oil competition, the top of the top for extra virgin olive oil,” reports Terra Creta’s marketing / area exports manager and olive oil tasting expert Emmanouil Karpadakis. He believes “Greece deserves a very good position every year at Mario Solinas.” This year, the Terra Creta team is very proud to have given the Greek olive oil sector that distinction, which the country had not achieved since 2008.
“We feel that winning Mario Solinas is the best justification for the hard work the Terra Creta team has been doing for years” in Crete, Karpadakis explained. “Without the contribution of our team of farmers, this could not happen. This collaboration helped us elevate the overall quality” of Terra Creta’s Grand Cru extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Following the company’s guidelines, the farmers’ team works under the agronomist’s supervision, caring for their olive groves using sustainable practices.
“We have our guidelines for quality and all related procedures, down to the smallest detail,” Karpadakis told Greek Liquid Gold. The Koroneiki variety olives are transferred to Terra Creta’s modern olive mill in Kolymvari with extra care, and their oil is extracted immediately, “because we want to regulate the extraction process, which is very critical for the final quality” of extra virgin olive oil.
According to Karpadakis, “Terra Creta’s Grand Cru is not just a product, not just a label with extra virgin olive oil inside. Grand Cru is the culmination of a philosophy of producing superior extra virgin olive oil. It’s the result of a holistic approach to cultivation, extraction, and communication of our philosophy. There are techniques that we developed or adapted over several years. But it’s not just practices; there are a lot of people involved. The Grand Cru philosophy gives incentives to the farmers for higher quality, which leads to a cooperation that is very fruitful on both sides.”
This innovative company has earned more than 150 quality and taste awards at international competitions. Prepared to supply large quantities of excellent extra virgin olive oil, the company exports 95% of its EVOO to 45 countries. Terra Creta has long been one of the leading exporters of bottled Greek extra virgin olive oil.
On the other hand, this year’s First Finalist for Medium green fruitiness at the Mario Solinas Quality Award, Agriston, is a newcomer on the olive oil scene. Agriston was established in Kavala, northern Greece in October 2019. Consultant Odysseas Vlachavas, who helped establish the company, told Greek Liquid Gold Agriston entered this demanding competition so soon after the company’s founding because their goal is “to achieve the maximum quality and distinction,” and they wanted to be sure they were on the right track.
In addition to using well-known best practices for extra virgin olive oil production, Agriston conducts many experiments in their olive mill. Cooperating with Perrotis College in northern Greece, they have achieved encouraging results. With their distinction at Mario Solinas for their 100% Chalkidiki variety Agriston Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Vlachavas reports, “we feel that our efforts are rewarded – one step on the right path, one step to go further and be even better in the future.”
The Mario Solinas Quality Award is focused on excellent quality extra virgin olive oil that is available in large quantities. To create such a product, dedicated teams must persistently devote themselves to hard, careful work and the shared goal of distinction.
Thanks to the companies for the photos used with this article.
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(This story was originally published on Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (greekliquidgold.com). See that site for recipes with olive oil, photos from Greece, and olive oil news and information.)