Giovanni Bianchi harvesting olives, with an inverted umbrella net under a tree, not touching the ground

Born in Greece to Italian parents, Giovanni Bianchi is the creator of Argali Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which has been winning numerous awards at major international olive oil competitions since 2016. Proud to produce one of the best Greek organic olive oils, Giovanni reveals that his “dream would be to return to Greece and make this great passion my job.”

Born in Thessaloniki, Greece and raised there for eleven years, Giovanni comments that he and his family “are all Italians, but we feel a strong link with Greece.” So in 2004 he decided to buy land with two small houses and 250 olive trees in Gargalianoi, Messinia, in the western Peloponnese, Greece, for a summer home where he could take his family. Since then, he has been “dreaming and thinking about olive oil.”

Tired of the frenetic pace of life today, he feels “the physical and spiritual need to do something to put me in harmony with nature.” So Giovanni follows all the stages of his olive oil’s production, from the activities in the olive grove (harvesting, fertilizing, pruning, and caring for the trees) to bottling, constantly traveling between Rome, where his family lives, and Gargalianoi.

Giovanni once participated in an event that aimed to raise awareness about high quality olive oil in Rome. He says he “was invited as a Greek producer to show the Italians (who are notoriously skeptical) that Greece produces a good olive oil.” In the strange position of a “guest” in his own city, he noticed that “some people were intrigued by the participation of a Greek producer at an event on quality oils. In Italy, Greek oil is often associated with a decent but cheap product found in supermarkets, and never a high quality product for gourmets and olive oil lovers.”

In recent years, many Greek producers have provided good reasons to revise this view, and Giovanni believes Italians need to understand that. Giovanni added, “when I am in Italy I identify myself as a Greek, and when I am in Greece I identify as an Italian.” In the field of olive oil production, he is “trying to blend the positive aspects of the two cultures.” And his goals resemble those of many of the best Greek producers.

Giovanni explains that he “started to produce oil for my children, and I continue to do that with the same love and the same care,” selling only what his family does not need. “We choose quality and sustainability, because our distance from commercial logic allows us to take care of every detail, from the olive trees to the harvest, from pressing to bottling, step by step, to bring out an organic product of exceptional quality.”

Giovanni Bianchi and his wife harvesting olives

Seeking to achieve this exceptional quality, Giovanni earned an organic certification from BioHellas, took olive oil tasting classes in Italy, and joined UMAO, the Mediterranean Union of Oil Tasters, in Rome. “These people have opened my eyes to a new world. They told me about harvesting and storage techniques, but above all they explained to me the correct processing mode for the mill.”

Aware that “perfect olives can give a poor quality oil if the crusher does not follow some simple rules,” Giovanni was able to put into practice some fundamental rules with the collaboration of the oil mill of Gargalianoi. Later, he set up his own small mill right next to his olive grove, where he can “process the olives within a few hours of harvesting and meticulously adjust each processing parameter according to the characteristics of the olives just harvested.”

Giovanni says Argali’s many awards from international olive oil competitions “confirm that the path that I have undertaken is the right one,” as well as providing a “reward for my sacrifices and my courage to change and choose a different path.” However, for Giovanni success never means it is time to sit back and relax; on the contrary, he says, “I am determined and motivated to continue to improve the quality of my oil with respect for the environment and for the people working with me.”

As Giovanni explains, “our olive grove is located on stony ground where trees grew spontaneously. This gives the grove a unique natural aspect, with the human hand almost invisible. Only an expert eye can see the signs of the grafts that more than 60 years ago transformed the rustic wild olives into trees of the Koroneiki variety which maintain the ability to withstand long periods of drought, like wild trees.”

When he first saw his olive trees, Giovanni reports, he “immediately decided that I would never interfere with a balance that has lasted for centuries. In the past, trees were not irrigated and have grown by adapting to difficult conditions.” He insists on organic cultivation, manual grass cutting instead of using a tractor “in order not to harm or kill the turtles and snakes,” and “total renunciation of irrigation” out of consideration for “the already overexploited aquifers.”

Without irrigation, “the production is very limited, but the trees give the olives that they are able to give in those conditions,” and their olives “are much less vulnerable to the olive fly, since in the summer they become dry and hard.”

Giovanni has no interest in producing a large quantity of olive oil; “my only goal is to produce oil with the highest possible quality,” meaning “the highest amount of healthy polyphenols combined with a harmony of aromas and flavors.” He emphasizes, “I am not a company, but only a small and passionate producer!” Passionate about extra virgin olive oil, he certainly is.

Thanks to Argali for the photos used with this article.

All businesses, organizations, and competitions involved with Greek olive oil, the Mediterranean diet, and/or agrotourism or food tourism in Greece, as well as anyone else 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 featuring news and information from the Greek olive oil world, it has helped companies reach consumers in more than 220 countries around the globe.