a bottle of Papadopoulos Omphacium Organic olive oil with gold olive leaves behind it

At the 3rd Athena International Olive Oil Competition (IOOC) in Delphi last month, Greek extra virgin olive oils competed with 359 samples from 12 countries, 52% of them from outside of Greece. 20 olive oil experts from 11 countries awarded Greek olive oils 1 Double Gold Medal, 23 Golds, 53 Silvers, and 30 Bronze Medals, plus a number of special awards.

The competition organizers emphasized that the greater number of samples from abroad than from Greece and the large number of international judges from five continents (2/3 of the tasting panel) “establish Athena as one of the few truly international extra virgin olive oil competitions in the world.” Organizers also commented that the “notable increase in the number of cultivars represented testified to the amazing diversity in the olive oil world: there were 124 different varieties this year, compared to 92 last year.”

At this year’s Athena IOOC, Papadopoulos Olive Mill continued the impressive winning streak begun in other competitions by capturing a Double Gold Medal for Omphacium Organic, a Nemoutiana monovarietal, which was also judged Best Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) worldwide, Best Olive Oil from Greece, and Best Olive Oil from Peloponnese, while their Mythocia Olympia Organic, a Koroneiki EVOO, also won a Silver Medal.   

These awards were no accident. Aware that Spanish and Italian olive oil experts have analyzed their countries’ olive varieties in great depth and learned how to produce very good olive oils from them, Konstantinos Papadopoulos tells Greek Liquid Gold that in recent years his team “has been conducting detailed research into all Hellenic varieties. The results of our research are reflected especially in this year’s prizes, which show that our olive oil is as good as Italian and Spanish oils.” 

In the difficult crop year of 2016-17, Papadopoulos’s team viewed their hardship as “a school” that “made us more careful at critical stages of cultivation, so we could avoid similar situations in the future.” And even after this year’s many triumphs, Papadopoulos takes nothing for granted. He emphasized that “we won’t stop here. With methodic work, detailed research, and many tests, we hope that in the coming years we can have even better results for Greek extra virgin olive oil.”

Kyklopas is also attaining excellent results for Greece: theirs was the first Greek olive oil to be a finalist at the Armonia IOOC and to win first place among the international olive oils at l'Orciolo d'Oro IOOC, both in Italy. At the Athena IOOC this year, their Early Harvest and Organic Farming EVOOs both won Gold medals, while Kyklopas Orange Flavored won a Bronze; their Early Harvest was also judged the Best in Thrace and the Best Makri EVOO. Valia Kelidou credits her family’s “full control of every single stage of the production process” for their olive oil’s “consistent quality” and multiple awards.

black and white photo of a boy hidden behind baskets on a donkey, with a woman and man walking near him

Kelidou explains the origins of her father’s olive oil “passion,” which continues to this day. As a 1950s photo of him as a child nearly hidden among olive baskets on a donkey reminds her, “Argyris Kelidis grew up in the small village of Nea Makri, northern Greece with his childhood intrinsically tied to the cultivation of olive trees. The memories, the smells, and the taste of freshly crushed olives were embedded deep inside him, and they left him no choice but to adore olive oil and spread this passion and oil across the globe.”

Diamantis Pierrakos and his family share their love for their craft in their Laconiko olive oils, traveling back and forth between family olive groves in Greece and their more recent home in the USA. “Completely immersed in every single step of the process, from the field to the consumer’s table,” and motivated to improve constantly, Diamantis and his brother Dino take turns caring for their olive groves and overseeing olive oil production. The result: a Gold Medal for Laconiko Olio Nuevo, which was judged Best Koroneiki EVOO in Greece and worldwide, and a Silver Medal for their Laconiko EVOO, to add to their list of awards. 

“We are very consistent, no matter what obstacles life throws at us, which is a sign of our dedication to what we love.” A taste of his family’s olive oil has convinced many that the best olive oil can come from Greece as well as Italy and Spain. As Pierrakos explains to Greek Liquid Gold, “there are many individual producers that produce great olive oil in the world, with each offering unique varietals. We … do the best we can to represent the potential of our Greek olive oil in the international market.” 

With a Gold Medal for Sparta Groves Organic Hand Picked, which was also judged the best Athinoelia EVOO, and a Silver for Sparta Groves Early Harvest, Dimitris Tsarpalis and his team at Sparta Groves provide more excellent examples of that potential. Tsarpalis attributes his olive oils’ success to their Athinoelia “cultivar, location, cultivation methods, hand picking, hand selecting, baskets, and careful pressing,” as well as bottling the day after the milling, which he believes to be unusual. 

Tsarpalis tells Greek Liquid Gold that Sparta Groves stands out for their “love and passion to achieve the best possible results for our family and for our clients.” Their consideration for consumers is evident in the “full picture” clearly provided by the harvest and press date as well as the bottling date on their packages.

Manos Asmarianakis’s family has always produced olive oil. Ten years ago, they began bottling and branding their EVOO. When Asmarianakis learned that his family business had won a Gold Medal and a Best of Crete Award for their Physis of Crete EVOO, that made all their hard work on their family estates in the traditional village of Kritsa in Lasithi worthwhile. 

Asmarianakis remembers helping his grandfather plant 500 of their youngest trees when he was ten years old. “Then I did not know the value of this. Now I understand how wise a choice that was, and for this reason I want to dedicate all the awards to my wonderful grandfather, who is not living now, and to my father,” who still takes care of the family’s olive trees. Those forefathers made this year’s success possible.

Many success stories will be celebrated at the Athena IOOC awards ceremony at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 28 at the Zappeion Megaron Conference & Exhibitions Hall in Athens. The ceremony will be preceded by a day-long tasting (starting at noon) of all 242 award-winning extra virgin olive oils—the largest, most varied public tasting of premium EVOOs in Greece, according to organizers, and an excellent place to select EVOOs for personal or business use.


ATHENA IOOC 2018 – TOP GREEK WINNERS

olive oil – producer -- olive variety -- region (specific area)


DOUBLE GOLD, BEST ORGANIC EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL WORLDWIDE, BEST OLIVE OIL FROM GREECE, BEST OLIVE OIL FROM PELOPONNESE

Omphacium Organic -- Papadopoulos Olive Mill – Nemoutiana -- Peloponnese (Elis [also known as Ilia])  


BEST ENTRY PER VARIETY, WITH GOLD MEDALS

Sparta Groves Organic Hand Picked -- Sparta Groves – Athinoelia -- Peloponnese (Lakonia)   

Eirini Plomariou -- Eirini Plomariou -- Kolovi -- Aegean Islands (Lesbos)   

Laconiko Olio Nuovo -- Laconiko -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Lakonia)       

Kyklopas Early Harvest -- Kyklopas Elaiotriveio -- Makris -- Thrace (Evros)   

 

BEST ENTRY PER VARIETY, WITH SILVER MEDALS

Deladi -- Dimitrios Mamarelis -- Amfissa -- Central Greece (Phocis)   

Yanni's Limited -- Yanni's Olive Grove -- Hondroelia of Chalkidiki -- Macedonia


BEST OLIVE OIL FROM THE KORONEIKI VARIETY, WORLDWIDE

Laconiko Olio Nuovo -- Laconiko -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Lakonia)

BEST GREEK OLIVE OIL PER REGION, WITH GOLD MEDALS

Physis of Crete -- Physis of Crete -- Koroneiki -- Crete (Lasithi)   

Oath -- Baglatzis Estate -- Arbequina -- Central Greece (Phocis)       

Kyklopas Early Harvest -- Kyklopas Elaiotriveio -- Makris -- Thrace (Evros)   

Sapfo -- Papadellis Olive Oil -- 60% Andramitini, 30% Kolovi, 10% Agrielia -- Aegean Islands (Lesbos)       


BEST GREEK OLIVE OIL PER REGION, WITH SILVER MEDALS

Olive Oil of Pilion Voliotis Family -- Apostolos Voliotis -- Pilion Olives -- Thessalia (Magnesia)   

Liocladi Gold -- Toleris Family -- Olive of Chalkidiki -- Macedonia (Chalkidiki)   

ΙοΝΙΟ-Thiako -- Ionian Products -- Thiako -- Ionian Islands (Cephalonia)   

BEST FLAVORED OR INFUSED OLIVE OIL (SILVER MEDAL)

Ena Ena Natural Condiment with Wild Oregano -- Hellenic Fields -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Elis)   


GOLD MEDAL WINNING GREEK OLIVE OILS

(not including those already mentioned above)

Ω Ωlive -- Foufas Bros. -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Messenia)   

Pamako Blend Mountain Bio -- Eftychios Androulakis Olive Oil Bottling -- 50% Tsounati, 50% Koroneiki -- Crete (Chania)   

Stalia -- Stalia -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Messenia)   

Kyklopas Organic Farming -- Kyklopas Elaiotriveio -- Makris -- Thrace (Evros)

Doleon -- Sia Nature’s Icons -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Messenia)

Mati Ladi -- Rikia -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Messenia)   

39/22 Manaki -- Great Stories -- Manaki -- Peloponnese (Argolis)   

Etolea -- Areti Kouveli -- Koroneiki -- Central Greece (Aetolia-Acarnania)   

Angel -- Dragonas -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Messenia)   

Olvia -- Michael Tzortzis -- 80% Andramitini, 20% Kolovi -- Aegean Islands (Lesbos)   

Psaltiras -- Psaltiras -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Messenia)   

Konstas -- Konstas Olive Oil -- Koroneiki -- Attica (Mesogia)    

Elegia -- Panagiota Nikoloulia -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Elis)   

Oli Tina -- Oli Tina -- Koroneiki -- Aegean Islands (Kythera)       

Alpha to Omega -- Alpha to Omega -- Koroneiki -- Peloponnese (Messenia)

Exclusive Olympia -- Oliorama -- 90% Koroneiki, 10% Kolireiki -- Peloponnese (Elis)   
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The lists of Greek Silver and Bronze winners are too long to copy here—congratulations to all the winners! To see them, select Silver or Bronze under medal and Greece under country on the Athena IOOC Medals web page

Thanks to Papadopoulos Olive Mill for the photos of their olive oil and olives and to Kyklopas for the photo of the young Argyris Kelidis and his parents.

Selected Past Events