looking down on the Liokareas olive groves in Mani from a spot next to a church, with mountains on the far side of a valley

At the 20th Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition this year, Greek extra virgin olive oils captured 23 quality awards and 14 design awards. After competing with 530 olive oils from 302 producers from 17 countries, some of the top Greek winners discussed the ways they overcame adversity to excel in this very difficult harvest year.

AGROVIM was the top Greek award winner at the 2019 Los Angeles competition. Their Iliada series took home two silver medals and two bronze medals for quality, plus a gold medal and two bronzes for package design. George Xakoustos told Greek Liquid Gold that this success “gives all of us at Agrovim, and especially our local farmers’ community, an extra incentive to continue our efforts to achieve excellence every single year.”

Xakoustos explained that Agrovim’s Iliada Single Estate extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), which is produced “by dedicated small family olive growers in Messinia exclusively for Agrovim, is fresh, grassy, and relatively high in polyphenols.” Their Iliada Kalamata “has a well balanced organoleptic profile, fruity, rich in aromas,” with naturally low acidity. Their condiments are made with “high quality, low acidity extra virgin olive oil” with a “smooth buttery nature and a balanced organoleptic profile which enhances and highlights the aromatic extract.” 

A family business now run by the third generation, Agrovim manages “to produce excellent products in high volumes even in the most difficult harvest years,” according to Xakoustos, because they fairly reward the 6,000 farmers, mills, and cooperatives they work with on a long-term basis, educate them, and ensure that their products will have a consistent market (now in 55 countries).

With a “commitment to authenticity, origin, and tradition supported by science, ingenuity, and investments in equipment, facilities, and people,” as well as “creative thinking and surprisingly fair prices,” Xakoustos added, Agrovim “never stops innovating” and improving. In fact, Agrovim is sponsoring the Hellenic Association of Physics in “a unique experiment to design, produce and send the first ever olive press into space with Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket. We aspire to be the first olive oil company to challenge outer space.”

Working with the less common Agriniou olive variety here on earth, ALSEA won silver medals at the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition for Alsea Selection and Alsea NEO, plus a silver design award in the Modern Classic category. Reporting that their three medals are wonderful rewards for their efforts, Vasiliki Maraveli explained that “Alsea NEO is our first pressed olive oil. It is full of green aromas. Alsea Selection is an olive oil with an herbal aroma and a wonderful aftertaste.” 

Maraveli admitted that this “was a very difficult year, and that means it demanded twice the effort of other years, mostly to keep our olives safe from the olive fly.” Working in the Agrinio area of mainland Greece, northwest of Athens, the Alsea team paid close attention to the fly’s population level and took extra measures to protect their crops. Maraveli pointed out that Alsea is a small enough company “that we can control our high quality production,” thanks to a careful focus and a devotion to high quality.

Just back from the BIOFACH organic trade fair in Germany, where he accepted a Recommendation award for TERRA CRETA’s organic EVOO, Emmanouil Karpadakis told Greek Liquid Gold about the quality that inspired that award, the Los Angeles IOOC’s silver medal for Terra Creta Estate EVOO, and the bronze medal for Terra Creta’s Grand Cru EVOO in Los Angeles.

As Karpadakis suggested, “extraordinary quality is all about people's knowledge, passion, attention to the smallest detail, and precision. We strongly believe that this is the only way to achieve a better future for Greek olive oil and for the farmers” behind it.

“In 2018-19 Terra Creta made a significant investment and major improvements in both procedures and infrastructure,” Karpadakis reported, “from olive tree cultivation to harvesting, and from the extraction procedures to bottling, aiming for the highest possible quality, health value, and tasting profile of our precious Koroneiki EVOO” from Crete. He considers the awards from the USA and Germany “the first results of that project.”

In Los Angeles, LIOKAREAS also won a silver medal for their early harvest Koroneiki EVOO and a bronze for their flavored estate grown Kalamata condiment. Fifth generation olive oil producer and company founder Peter Liokareas told Greek Liquid Gold that while the “rugged terrain and small trees in Mani, Peloponnese do not produce as much quantity as the larger Koroneiki trees in other regions, the quality is exceptional. Our rocky terrain and higher altitudes give our product a distinct aroma and taste.”

Their Estate Grown Orange Olive Oil is a “mix of green Koroneiki olives and organically grown oranges from our farm in Mani,” which produce “a very nice citrus flavor” along with the fresh green olive oil flavor, “with medium sweetness and a nice peppery finish.” On the other hand, “our Early Harvest EVOO has always been my personal favorite. A very green olive oil with a great aroma and medium-sweet. It has the flavor profile of green tomato, green banana, green apple, chicory, and Greek herbs. It is very pungent” and tastes as fresh “as if it was just pressed yesterday. It is my favorite complement to any dish, because it really brings out the full flavor in anything I am cooking.” 

The Liokareas team managed to overcome the difficulties of this challenging harvest year by consistently monitoring and caring for their olive groves, watching the weather and the fruit fly, communicating with friends and experts about developments, and taking appropriate action “to make sure every step of production is done perfectly.” This year, that meant “harvesting and pressing 3 weeks earlier than we did last year” because of an “exponentially” increasing fruit fly population and early ripening.

Great care and perseverance helped Greek olive oil companies from a variety of regions overcome difficult conditions to produce the superior extra virgin olive oil for which they aimed.

Greek Quality Awards at the Los Angeles Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition

  • AEGEAN GOLD - BRONZE MEDAL Medium, Kolovi, PGI Lesvos
  • ALSEA - SILVER MEDAL Medium, Agriniou, Selection
  • ALSEA - SILVER MEDAL Medium, Agriniou, NEO
  • ELLORA FARMS - BRONZE MEDAL Medium, Koroneiki, PDO Kolymvari, Crete
  • GOUTIS ESTATE - BRONZE MEDAL Robust, Metron, Ileia 2018
  • HELLENIC FIELDS - BRONZE MEDAL Flavored, Lemon Thyme, Peloponnese 2019
  • ILIADA - SILVER MEDAL Medium, Koroneiki, Single Estate, Kalamata
  • ILIADA - SILVER MEDAL Flavored, Greece
  • ILIADA - BRONZE MEDAL Medium, Koroneiki, PDO Kalamata
  • ILIADA - BRONZE MEDAL Flavored, Basil, Greece
  • KRITIKI ELEONES - BRONZE MEDAL Medium, Koroneiki, Crete
  • KTIMA LOUIZA - BRONZE MEDAL Robust, Koroneiki, Organic, Peloponnese
  • LACONIKO - BRONZE MEDAL Delicate, Koroneiki, Lakonia 2019
  • LIOKAREAS - SILVER MEDAL Medium, Koroneiki, Early Harvest, Kalamata
  • LIOKAREAS - BRONZE MEDAL Flavored, Estate Grown, Kalamata
  • MAKARIA TERRA - SILVER MEDAL Medium, Koroneiki, Messinia
  • MER DES OLIVIERS DE DELPHES - BRONZE MEDAL Robust, Amfissis, Greece 2018
  • MITERA - BRONZE MEDAL Medium, Mastoidis, Crete
  • MY PRECIOUS OLIVE TREE - SILVER MEDAL Medium, Patrini, Peloponnese 2018
  • OLYMPIAN GREEN - BRONZE MEDAL Flavored, Wasabi, Peloponnese
  • OLYMPIAN GREEN - BRONZE MEDAL Robust, Koroneiki, Traditional Oly Oil, Peloponnese
  • TERRA CRETA - SILVER MEDAL Delicate, Koroneiki, Estate, Crete 2019
  • TERRA CRETA - BRONZE MEDAL Medium, Koroneiki, Grand Cru, Crete 2019

For packaging design awards, see the competition website

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Thanks to Peter Liokareas for the photos that appear with this article.

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