A dark bottle of Olive Poem olive oil on the left, the word Biolnovello on the top right, and an Extra Gold medallion drawing and the number 2019 below it

Competing with approximately 200 producers, Greek olive oil companies took home six medals at the 2019 Biolnovello organic extra virgin olive oil competition in Apulia, Italy: two extra golds, one gold, and three silvers. One Greek extra virgin olive oil, Olive Poem, was also honored as one of the international competition’s top 13 organic olive oils.

Olive Poem producer Theodoros Koutsotheodoris entered the competition because he considers Biolnovello “a very important competition, perhaps the most important for organic olive oils. Furthermore, it is the very first of the big competitions each crop season [in the Northern Hemisphere], where only the very fresh olive oils (produced before mid-November) are accepted.” As George Dimas of Energaea points out, with organic food increasingly popular among consumers worldwide, exclusively organic competitions like Biolnovello are useful to help highlight superior flavor produced using environmentally friendly techniques.

The international BIOL Prize for certified organic extra virgin olive oils has been sponsored by C.I.BI., the Italian Consortium for the Organic Sector, in Apulia (Puglia), Italy since 1996. In 2014, the Biolnovello competition was created to allow producers to promote award-winning olive oil shortly after its production, as well as giving them feedback on the quality of their oil much earlier than other contests.

Koutsotheodoris considers it “a great honor” for his Olive Poem extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) to be the only Greek oil listed among the top 13 organic olive oils in this international competition, as well as receiving an extra gold medal. A blend of single estate Koroneiki and Myrtoelia olive oils from Laconia, Peloponnese, Olive Poem “is produced only from self germinated olive trees in our grove.” Koutsotheodoris’s company “controls all the steps, from the preservation of the specific DNA of the trees and their natural organic agriculture, to high-end oil production, storage, and bottling.”

The result, says Koutsotheodoris, “is a unique product. A natural poem of the Laconian land.” Created in an area with excellent soil and climatic conditions for olive oil, following “the most modern guidelines,” Olive Poem has had “a constantly high level of quality. But every year, it gets better and better,” thanks to consistent improvement of procedures.

Another extra gold medal went to an EVOO made from olives grown farther west in the Peloponnese peninsula, not far from Ancient Olympia: PJ KABOS Family Reserve Organic. Much like Koutsotheodoris, James Panagiotopoulos is dedicated to “maintaining our high standards despite the cost,” with great care at every step, from the olive groves to the bottling plant. Concerned about the community and the environment as well as quality, the PJ KABOS team tries “to help others along the way, being honest to ourselves and our customers” year after year.

Panagiotopoulos told Greek Liquid Gold his Biolnovello prize is “especially rewarding for a product that was entirely produced by us.” He appreciates Biolnovello’s early results, since they allow him to tell consumers about his olive oil’s award-winning quality “months before most competitions take place.” He suggests that everyone “try many olive oil brands from many countries to find what is best for them”--and hopes to convince them to start with PJ KABOS.

George Dimas of Energaea, a gold medal winner for Nostimon Hemar EVOO, makes a similar point, although he might suggest a different starting point: “if your cooking is different every day, why do you use one olive oil? Taste the difference!” In fact, just in Greece, there is “a whole world” of flavors for olive oil enthusiasts, since “our land is blessed with many different olive varieties.” Energaea is noteworthy for bottling oils extracted from several different Greek varieties, including Koroneiki, Manaki, Megaron, Athinolia, and Kolovi. Their Biolnovello award winner is made from Athinolia olives.

In addition to the gold and extra gold awards, three Greek companies took home silver medals from Biolnovello: Centaurs Olive Groves, Kolympari SA, and Hellenic Fields Ltd. (for Ena Ena Organic PGI Olympia).

Why did these organic Greek olive oils win awards? Hellenic Fields owner Nikolas Philippidis told Greek Liquid Gold “what makes our olive oil unique is the land. The microclimate in the groves gives unique sensory and chemical characteristics to our olive oil. Millions of years ago, there used to be a sea in the hills of Ancient Skillountia” (near Ancient Olympia). So their olives are grown in soil that is more than 80% sand. Although their groves are now 400 meters above sea level and 15 kilometers from the sea, “you can find seashells between the wild orchids, oregano, thyme, lemongrass, and other indigenous flowers and herbs that we allow to grow among the olive trees.”

Koutsotheodoris encourages everyone to try Greek EVOOs “because some parts of Greece have perhaps the most favorable soil and climatic conditions in the world for olive cultivation. This, combined with the unique olive varieties evolved under these conditions for millennia,” leads to many impressive results.

Moreover, Dimas believes that the economic crisis led “many highly educated people to get involved with olive oil production, approaching or applying new methods in cultivation, production, research, marketing, etc. The outcome is a new generation of producers” that create high quality, healthy products. In fact, recent scientific research has been providing new evidence for the “health benefits of Greek olive oil due to its high phenolic content.”

Koutsotheodoris thinks Greece is just now catching up with other countries in terms of the best production practices. He has recently been struck by “some noticeable initiatives” that are now “bearing fruit to produce some of the top olive oils of the world,” with “the unique flavor characteristics of the Greek terroir.” Some of those top olive oils were awarded in the Biolnovello competition, and consumers worldwide should look for more Greek winners as the international competition season continues.

Thanks to Olive Poem for the photos used with this article.

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