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Food

The 10th Cretan Olive Oil Contest Celebrates Island’s Top EVOOs

CRETE – The Cretan Olive Oil Competition (COOC) celebrated its 10th anniversary and the accomplishments of Cretan olive oil producers with an awards ceremony and informative seminars in Heraklion, Crete, Greece, on March 31. Olive oil sector professionals and Cretan dignitaries honored the 43 extra virgin olive oils from Crete that received awards and commendations.

The COOC has taken place annually throughout the last decade, contributing to great improvement in Cretan olive oil over the years, according to competition coordinator Eleftheria Germanaki, Director of the Sensory Evaluation Laboratory of Crete and an international competition judge. Germanaki reported that Cretan olive oil has won so many top awards in recent international competitions that Crete has become the most awarded region in the world.

The internationally recognized olive oil expert Efi Christopoulou, leader of the COOC jury, has played a key role in the competition since its founding. In addition to working with the European Union and the International Olive Council, this Greek olive oil expert and chemist was one of the pioneers of the official organoleptic method for evaluating olive oil (judging it based on its aroma and flavor) starting in the early 1980s.

Terra Creta was among the winners at the 10th Cretan Olive Oil Competition. Photo: Courtesy of Terra Creta

This year, 69 samples competed in the COOC, most of them Koroneiki variety olive oil. One gold, one silver, and one bronze award were presented in each of three categories: conventional production, organic production, and PDO/PGI. The nine judges from all four regional units of Crete and two foreign countries also awarded the best olive oil from each of the island’s regional units and presented commendation (honorable mention) certificates to olive oils scoring at least 80 out of 100 points.

During this celebration of the 10th year of the competition, Deputy Regional Governor for Agricultural Economy Stavros Tzedakis was pleased to see that the competition scores were “quite high, [even] in a difficult year for the production of Cretan Olive Oil.”

The competition’s highest score, the Gold Elea (Olive Tree) prize for conventionally produced extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and the Best of Chania award, went to Terra Creta Grand Cru Koroneiki. Terra Creta also received Kritiki Elea (Cretan Olive Tree) distinctions* for Terra Creta PDO Kolymvari EVOO and Terra Creta Organic EVOO. Emmanouil Karpadakis credits “clear goals, dedication, and the excellent coordination of our team, from the farmer to the miller and all other people involved,” for his company’s success. He added that awards motivate Terra Creta’s team to continue examining their EVOOs’ “organoleptic profile evolution in relation to consumer demand or acceptance,” always taking action to produce flavorful products that will please consumers.

In the organic category, Pamako Premium Organic Monovarietal EVOO, a Tsounati olive oil, captured the Gold Elea prize. Eftychios Androulakis told Greek Liquid Gold this is “another important award in our list of many awards” and their 8th prize from the COOC in 9 years of participation. Androulakis revealed that what is most important to him is that Pamako’s repeated success shows “consistency” even in very “difficult harvest seasons.” He is proud “to create some of the most excellent organic EVOOs at our own olive mill, and happy that again this year we had more than 2000 mg of total phenols,” which means Pamako is an extra healthy olive oil that is very rich in antioxidants.

Honored with the Best of Rethymno award, Tsouderos Ltd. took home a Silver Elea prize for their organic Ladi Bio, plus two honorable mentions, one in each of the other categories. Vangelis Tsouderos explained that they participated in the COOC to highlight olive oil producers’ good work and spotlight “the quality of olive oil produced in our region, despite the difficulties we faced this year.” He views awards as “the reward for a series of correct actions–a chain of actions that starts from growing the trees” and proceeds through “harvesting, milling the fruit, storing and finally bottling the olive oil.” He suggests that prizes help consumers select “an olive oil recognized for its properties and organoleptic characteristics, so that it has only benefits in their diet.”

The Best of Lasithi award was claimed by Physis of Crete 0.2, which also won the Bronze Elea prize for conventionally produced EVOOs, while the company’s Korona Organic Farming received an honorary distinction. Manos Asmarianakis told Greek Liquid Gold Physis of Crete has won awards at the COOC every year since 2018, when they first entered the contest. Awards reflect the success of “systematic work throughout the year. Proper harvesting at the right time is necessary, and of course, the fundamental requirement is pressing the same day.” Asmarianakis believes awards validate their olive oil’s “consistent and superior quality year after year, instilling a sense of trust in consumers,” although “the primary criterion” is “the level of satisfaction at the consumer’s table.”

Congratulating all the participating producers in his welcoming remarks at the awards ceremony, Governor of Crete Stavros Arnaoutakis commented on important progress in the Cretan olive oil sector in three areas: modernizing production methods, improving the quality of the product, and promoting it abroad. “In this room,” the Governor told the audience, “we share the common goal of promoting Cretan olive oil as a symbol of Cretan agricultural production, as a quality product, with standardization and certification” rather than bulk sales in which its identity is lost. The governor explained that the Region of Crete’s 2023 Strategic Plan for olive oil includes increasing the percentage of standardized olive oil and its exports, as well as connecting olive oil more closely with tourism and gastronomy.

COOC coordinator Germanaki mentioned some changes to the competition and awards ceremony in the last few years that relate to the similar goals of the competition:

  • inviting selected chefs and restaurant owners to join judges in tasting samples (not to contribute to the EVOOs’ scoring, but to deepen gastronomy professionals’ knowledge of EVOO)
  • including experienced judges from abroad
  • offering a free “consultant service for all the participants of the competition at our sensory evaluation laboratory, to discuss their samples and give proper instruction for possible quality improvements”
  • adding presentations useful to producers to the awards ceremony.

This year, organizers invited experts from several branches of the olive oil sector in Crete to discuss the following topics:

  • proposals for improvement of olive cultivation (Dr. Georgios Koubouris, researcher at the Institute of Olive Tree, Subtropical Crops and Viticulture and a scientific editor)
  • olive oil export and production issues in relation to modern knowledge and practices (Emmanouil Karpadakis, Vice President of the Cretan Exporters’ Association)
  • the presentation of branded olive oil in restaurants and hotels (Vasilis Leonidou, executive olive oil chef, and Fillipo Falugiani, Italian olive oil judge and olive oil restaurant organization president).

Thanking everyone involved in the event for their contributions, Iro Stavrakaki, the competition organizer on behalf of the Agronutritional Cooperation of Crete, emphasized that they try to make the competition better every year to “honor the olive oil producers as they deserve. The 11th Cretan Olive Oil Competition is on the way.”

The complete list of competition winners is available online: https://shorturl.at/dgksX.

Originally published on Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: https://www.greekliquidgold.com/. See that site for recipes with olive oil, photos from Greece, agrotourism and food tourism suggestions, and olive oil news and information.

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