Kotinos Awards winners and Filaios Society board members on stage at the Parnassos Literary Society in Athens

The 2023 Kotinos olive oil competition awards ceremony was held on July 3 in the elegant neoclassical mansion of the Parnassos Literary Society in Athens. Praising the quality of Greek olive oils that entered the competition, jury leader Konstantinos Tsoronis noted that oils made from various Greek olive varieties, not only the common Koroneiki, won awards.

Tsoronis was pleased to see this evidence of “the improvement and the potential of different Greek varieties.” He also believes Greek olive oils’ strengths in the delicate and medium intensity categories are noteworthy, since many consumers prefer these categories.

The awards ceremony was preceded by a roundtable discussion about sustainable olive cultivation. In addition, chemist and olive oil expert Vasilis Kamvisis provided an overview of the history and origin of the Kotinos Awards, which has been organized by the Filaios Friends of Olive Oil Society since 2016.

Introducing this year’s Kotinos competition results, Tsoronis pointed out that while there were not very many entries, the samples did include very high quality extra virgin olive oils (EVOOs) from Greece, Spain, and Portugal, including one that won a Best in Spain award at another competition.

Unlike most competitions, which award hundreds of olive oils, Kotinos follows the strict standards of the International Olive Council’s Mario Solinas competition and awards only one gold, one silver, and one bronze prize, as well as honorable mentions (if they are deserved), in each of nine categories, plus a few more prizes for producers who do not bottle their olive oil. Before judging and scoring, the samples are separated into different categories according to whether they are organic, PDO/PGI, or conventional, and according to their level of intensity (delicate, medium, or high intensity).

The top Greek winner at the competition was A.M.G. Karabelas P.C. (better known as owner of The Olive Temple), which won a Gold award for Laurel and Flame Premium Olympia PGI extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and a Silver prize for Laurel and Flame Fresh, both early harvest organic EVOOs from the area of Ancient Olympia that were milled in the family’s own state-of-the-art olive mill.

Co-owners and brothers Alexis and Francesco Karabelas are the fourth generation to carry on their family business, which has blossomed since their parents opened Magna Grecia Agritourism a few kilometers from the archaeological site of Ancient Olympia in 2008. It made sense to put olive oil at the center of this venture, since “from ancient times until today it has been a source of life and well-being, and also a pole of attraction for visitors from all over the world. Olive tourism is flourishing and diversifying our tourism product for the better! It is no longer just our islands and the sea” that attract tourists visiting Greece, “but also mainland Greece with its quality products and culinary tourism.”

While The Olive Temple acts as an ambassador for Greek olive oil via tourism, Dimitris Dervenis explained that the public University of Thessaly aims to use their award-winning The Rector EVOO “to become the beacon and guide for the farmers of our region and the whole of Greece, for the production and marketing of high quality olive oil. To convince skeptical farmers not only with teaching or with seminars, but with our living example,” that there is a better method of olive cultivation and oil production than the traditional one, in the context of “the competitive environment of the modern world, to prevail and earn more. To make their work more efficient and more interesting. This is our goal and our contribution to the development of our region and our country.”

Inspired by the vision of its rector in 2016, the university managed to take advantage of land granted by the Municipality of Argalasti, after years of work to save and reinvigorate 1500 olive trees that had been lost among weeds and thorns. Using the best, latest practices throughout all stages of cultivation, production, and packaging, The Rector has now added a Gold from the Kotinos Awards to their list of prizes.

Claiming two Silver awards and a Bronze for olive oil from the southern island of Crete, a representative of El Renieris & Co was repeatedly called to the Kotinos stage. As Alexis Perdikakis told Greek Liquid Gold, Renieris is “a family business that has been producing olive oil for generations. We have grown from a small local producer to a well-known international brand, but we have never compromised on our quality and values. We combine tradition and innovation to create olive oil that is pure, fresh, and delicious. We care about our customers and the environment, and we strive to offer the best olive oil possible.”  

Giovanni Bianchi, founder of Silver award winner Argali, believes he succeeds in producing excellent olive oil because he finds the process “essentially fun.” But this is serious fun: “It allows me to commit myself constantly and to continue studying. Luckily my entire family is full of passion. It is the passion that allows us to experiment (from the field to the mill) and to try to constantly improve our product” in his Greek olive groves in the Peloponnese. Bianchi identifies himself as “an Italian in love with Greece, a small producer wholly, and I would say madly, in love with olive oil.

Bianchi believes “Kotinos is not only one of the oldest and most prestigious competitions, but it is also extremely selective. This means that there are exceptional oils that remain off the podium by a few tenths of a point. It is a disappointment that I have often experienced in previous years, but it is also proof that comparing oneself with other prestigious producers and striving for improvement brings results.”

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as others interested in supporting Greeks working in these sectors, are invited to consider the advertising and sponsorship opportunities on the Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website. The only wide-ranging English-language site focused on news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach consumers in more than 220 countries around the globe.

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