At the 2021 Athena International Olive Oil Competition (Athena IOOC), Greece earned an impressive 179 awards: 18 Special awards, 9 Double Golds, 49 Golds, 52 Silvers, and 51 Bronze medals. A newcomer to international competitions, A.M.G. Karabelas, won the Best of Greece award for Laurel & Flame Fresh extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) from near Ancient Olympia.
A truly international competition, the Athena IOOC attracted 575 olive oils from 24 countries on all continents and in both hemispheres. They were judged by 25 olive oil experts from 12 countries. The competition organizers noted a marked increase in the number of olive varieties represented in this year’s competition, which emphasizes the impressive diversity of choices for consumers enjoying extra virgin olive oil today.
One example of the wide range of choices is Best of Greece award winner Laurel & Flame Fresh, an early harvest EVOO produced from Tsampidoelia olives. Alexis Karabelas believes this variety is “unknown if you are not from Ancient Olympia,” where his family’s olive groves are located. Tsampidoelia olive oil has received far less attention than the better known Koroneiki variety even in the part of Elis, western Peloponnese, where it has been made for generations. Alexis and his brother Francesco almost decided to give up on this unpopular cultivar. However, the results of a two-year professional case study led them to “believe in this variety” so they “want to promote it outside Greece.”
Alexis Karabelas told Greek Liquid Gold he credits his team’s “love and passion for quality” for their noteworthy triumph in their first entry in an international olive oil competition. Starting with an agrotourism venture in 2008, Alexis’s parents Dimitris Karabelas and Franca Magrini attracted many visitors who came to see Ancient Olympia. When the pandemic forced their tourism business to close temporarily, the family concentrated on establishing their own mill, their Olive Temple.
This enabled their own careful oversight of oil extraction within just three hours of the olive harvest, as well as their creation of different extra virgin olive oil brands. They have now decided “to take the next step and turn to international markets interested in quality products.” The quality comes with transparency: scanning a QR code on the package allows consumers to reveal the area, variety, altitude, and chemical and organoleptic analyses, as well as food pairing suggestions and recipes. For Karabelas, this establishes “a direct contract of trust with the consumer.”
The Makris cultivar, another less-known olive variety, was also highlighted at the Athena IOOC. This year, the competition’s Best entry from the Makris variety and Best Greek olive oil from Thrace, Evros was Double Gold medal winner Kyklopas Ages extra virgin olive oil. A family business based in the new “Elaiolado Makris” Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in northeastern Greece, Kyklopas has been a familiar name on international competition award lists in recent years.
Terra Creta, a company in southern Greece that has been winning numerous major awards for years, works mainly with the Greek olive variety most commonly used for olive oil, yet its team achieves uncommon results. This year, Double Gold winner Terra Creta EVOO was judged the Best Greek olive oil from Crete, Chania, and the Best Greek olive oil from the Koroneiki variety. However, for Terra Creta top distinctions are not enough. Emmanouil Karpadakis emphasizes that “true quality in significant volume is a primary goal” for his team, both to “motivate and reward all the people involved from the tree to the olive oil,” and to meet the needs of the market sectors interested in exceptional quality. Terra Creta is proud to have succeeded in creating substantial quantities of especially high quality Greek extra virgin olive oil.
Also working with Koroneiki olives and dedicated to offering excellent extra virgin olive oil, Friedrich Bläuel & Co. Ltd. earned a Double Gold and the Best Greek organic extra virgin olive oil award for Mani Organic EVOO from Messenia, Peloponnese. Silvia Lazzari explained that the company’s founders helped bring organic olive cultivation to Greece in the 1980s and continue to champion sustainable farming to this day. Friedrich Bläuel & Co. uses resources responsibly and sources raw materials locally as much as possible in order to minimize the company’s environmental footprint and help preserve the Greek landscape.
Another oil produced from Koroneiki olives grown in Peloponnese, the flavored olive oil Laconiko Lime won a Double Gold medal as well as designation as the Athena competition’s Best flavored or infused olive oil. Laconiko’s Diamantis Pierrakos informed Greek Liquid Gold that he and his team at Laconiko “are grateful that the dedication and commitment that we apply in our production is recognized at this prestigious olive oil competition. We do not have any hidden secrets behind our oil’s success; we are just fortunate that we have our beautiful customers that support us and have allowed us to do what we absolutely love. For this reason alone, we cannot disappoint in offering them anything below what they deserve.” Year after year, Laconiko strives to produce the best possible products, accumulating large numbers of awards and orders as a result.
For six years, international juries at the Athena IOOC have evaluated increasing numbers of extra virgin olive oils and flavored olive oils from various olive varieties and many parts of the globe. At the same time, by changing the competition’s location, they draw attention to important olive growing areas in Greece: the Athens area, Messinia with its Kalamata olive groves, Delphi, Nafplion, Spata, and the island of Lesvos. The Athena team recognizes excellence wherever they find it in the olive oil world, and award-winning Greek producers proudly showcase the exquisite quality of their varied array of olive oils from across Greece.
Awards – Olive Oil – Company – Olive Variety – Region
Best of Greece, Best Greek olive oil from Peloponnese, Elis, Double Gold – Laurel & Flame – A.M.G. Karabelas – Tsampidoelia – Peloponnese, Elis
Best entry from the Makris variety, Best Greek olive oil from Thrace, Evros, Double Gold – Kyklopas Ages – Kyklopas Elaiotriveio Argyri Kelidi – Makris – Thrace, Evros
Best Greek olive oil from the Koroneiki variety, Best Greek olive oil from Crete, Chania, Double Gold – Terra Creta – Terra Creta – Koroneiki – Crete, Chania
Best Greek organic extra virgin olive oil, Double Gold – Mani Organic – Friedrich Bläuel – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Messenia
Best flavored or infused olive oil, Double Gold – Laconiko Lime – Laconiko – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Laconia
Other Greek Double Gold Medal Winners, Athena IOOC 2021
Olive Oil – Company – Olive Variety – Region
776 – 776 Deluxe Foods – 85% Koroneiki, 15% Kolireiki – Peloponnese, Elis
Mediterre Olymp – Mediterre Eurofood – 80% Koroneiki, 20% Kolireiki – Peloponnese, Elis
Mediterre Omphacium Organic – Mediterre Eurofood – Olympia – Peloponnese, Elis
Olive Poem – A Drop of Art – Olive Poem – 70% Koroneiki, 30% Myrtolia – Peloponnese, Laconia
Greek Gold Medal Winners, Athena IOOC 2021
Olive Oil – Company – Olive Variety – Region
Eos Bio Early Harvest – Gliglis Organic Oil – Kolovi – Aegean Islands, Lesbos
Kotinos – Pegasus Imports & Exports – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Elis
Alexandros Black Edition – Olive Mill "Alexandros" Boukoureslis Nik. – Makris – Thrace, Evros
Pamako Premium Organic Monavarietal – Androulakis Eftychios – Pamako – Tsounati – Crete, Chania
Enetikon – Bio Green Olive Oil – Lianolia – Epirus, Preveza
Liokareas Cold Fused Sage – Liokareas – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Messenia
Louiza Estate – Olympian Green International – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Elis
Terra Zakros – Nikolaos Ailamakis – Koroneiki – Crete, Lasithi
E.thos of Crete – E.thos of Crete – Koroneiki – Crete, Heraklion
Synaxis – Synaxis – Olive of Maroneia – Thrace, Rhodope
Blackbird Natural Treasures – Ioannis Kanellos – 40% Kolovi, 60% Andramitini – Aegean Islands, Lesbos
Konos Premium Edition – Konos – Ktima Micheli – Makris – Thrace, Evros
Aegaea Gold – Rafteli – Maria Protouli – 85% Kolovi, 10% Adramitini, 5% Ladolia – Aegean Islands, Lesbos
Stalia – Stalia Liotrivi Gargalianon – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Messenia
Mavroudis – Mavroudis Corfu Family Olive Oil – 70% Lianolia, 30% Koroneiki – Ionian Islands, Corfu
E-LA-WON – Kampouris I X E E Olivelawon – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Messenia
Charisma – Astron Miramvellou – Koroneiki – Crete, Lasithi
Mesi Gaia – Mesogiaki Eleones – 70% Koroneiki, 30% Klonara – Central Greece, Attica
Stadion – Olympian Green International – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Elis
Aenaon – Karoumpalis – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Messenia
Oleum Crete – Kidonakis Bros – Koroneiki – Crete, Heraklion
Sigma Gourmet Organic – Sigma Gourmet – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Laconia
Cretanthos Early Harvest Organic – Cretanthos – Koroneiki – Crete, Rethymno
Laconiko Dillemon – Laconiko – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Laconia
Aegaea Organic – Rafteli – Maria Protouli – Kolovi – Aegean Islands, Lesbos
7 Islands Dopia Zakynthou – 7 Islands Company – Local Zakynthos – Ionian Islands, Zakynthos
Liokareas Cold Fused Basil – Liokareas – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Messenia
Minos Bio – Renieris – Koroneiki – Crete, Chania
Irina – Catsacoulis – Kolovi – Aegean Islands, Lesbos
Alsea Νeo – Alsea – Nikolaos Sigounas – Olive of Agrinio – Central Greece, Aetolia-Acarnania
Laconiko Lemon – Laconiko – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Laconia
Agriston – Agriston – Olive of Chalkidiki – Macedonia, Kavala
Ellora Farms – Ellora Fine Foods – Koroneiki – Crete, Chania
Elaikos Selection Thasitiki – Efrosini Vatkali – Thasitiki – Macedonia, Kavala
enKardia Ultra Premium – enKardia – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Laconia
Hermes Dimarakis Estate – Hermes – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Argolis
Alexandros Special Edition – Olive Mill "Alexandros" Boukoureslis Nik. – Makris – Thrace, Evros
Phileos – Kasell – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Laconia
Laconiko – Laconiko – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Laconia
Kladeos – Lapithas – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Elis
Mediterre Alea – Mediterre Eurofood – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Elis
Mediterre Lemon Flavored – Mediterre Eurofood – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Elis
Syllogi – Kidonakis Bros – Koroneiki – Crete, Heraklion
Mediterre Lena – Mediterre Eurofood – 65% Koroneiki, 35% Manaki – Peloponnese, Elis
Themistoklis Estate – Niki Roussou – Olive of Maroneia – Thrace, Rhodope
Terra Creta Grand Cru – Terra Creta – Koroneiki – Crete, Chania
Olive's Secret Pure Organic – Kandemili Organic Olive Groves – Koroneiki – Crete, Heraklion
Enstagma Gourmet Saffron & Sage – Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms – Koroneiki – Peloponnese, Laconia
For the complete list of Greek winners, go to the Athena IOOC site and select Greece.
Thanks to Alexis Karabelas for the photos used with this article.
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