`Crete Gets its Own Olive Oil Competition

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Crete Gets its Own Olive Oil Competition

Mar. 25, 2015
Lisa Radinovsky

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The first Cre­tan Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion was held in the lab­o­ra­tory of organolep­tic eval­u­a­tion at the Union of Agri­cul­tural Coop­er­a­tives in Rethymno, Crete, Greece on March 21 – 22, 2015. This com­pe­ti­tion, which suc­ceeded in attract­ing far more par­tic­i­pants than antic­i­pated, sought to pro­mote high-qual­ity Cre­tan olive oil brands and the spe­cial organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics of the best Cre­tan olive oils, to improve their posi­tion in the local and global mar­kets, and to upgrade the over­all qual­ity of Cre­tan oils by devel­op­ing the exper­tise of par­tic­i­pants.

Gov­er­nor of Crete Stavros Arnaoutakis pre­sented the Golden ELEA Award to Geor­gios Vali­rakis of Kar­diafood in Rethymno for his Kar­diafood Extra Vir­gin Olive Oil (EVOO), the only oil from Tsounati olives to rank in the top ten at this com­pe­ti­tion. The gov­er­nor pre­sented the Sil­ver ELEA Award to Emmanouil Karpadakis of Terra Creta in Cha­nia for Terra Creta Estate PDO Kolym­vari EVOO, from Koroneiki olives (also the source of all the other win­ners’ oil). Terra Creta was also awarded the Bronze ELEA Award for Terra Creta Pla­tinium 0.2 EVOO.

The excel­lence of the rest of the top ten olive oils at the com­pe­ti­tion, all from Koroneiki olives, was also rec­og­nized, as they were ranked in this order: 4. Crete Gold PDO Kolym­vari EVOO from Kreta Food Ltd. in Cha­nia; 5. Minoan Elea EVOO from Minoan Elea in Her­ak­lion; 6. Sitia 0.3 EVOO from Niko­laos Ail­a­manakis in Sitia; 7. Apol­lo­nia PDO Kolym­vari EVOO from Apol­lo­nia Cre­tan Prod­ucts in Cha­nia; 8. Vienna EVOO from the Coop­er­a­tive of Vian­nos in Her­ak­lion; 9. Kar­dia EVOO from Kar­diafood in Rethymno; 10. Miterra EVOO from Minoan Gaia PC in Her­ak­lion. Some of the com­pe­ti­tion par­tic­i­pants will also com­pete in the New York Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion next month, along with up to 700 olive oils from 25 coun­tries.

Emmanouil Karpadakis of Terra Creta, Georgios Valirakis of Kardiafood, the governor of Crete, Stavros Arnautakis, and competition coordinator, Eleftheria Germanaki

Sixty-nine stan­dard­ized sam­ples from major Cre­tan bot­tling com­pa­nies were pro­vided from the 2014 – 15 sea­son. These sam­ples were eval­u­ated by a panel of ten judges who are expe­ri­enced chemists, agri­cul­tur­ists, and chem­i­cal engi­neers from Crete, mem­bers of accred­ited groups who have served as judges in both domes­tic and inter­na­tional olive oil com­pe­ti­tions.

Sam­ples were assessed based on the qual­ity of their organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics, using the same cri­te­ria as the Mario Soli­nas com­pe­ti­tion orga­nized by the Inter­na­tional Olive Coun­cil (IOC). The head of the jury was Greece’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the IOC, Effie Christopoulou, a chemist and acclaimed panel super­vi­sor and instruc­tor rec­og­nized by the IOC for her exper­tise in chem­i­cal and organolep­tic tests.

The competition’s coor­di­na­tion man­ager, Eleft­he­ria Ger­manaki, a dis­tin­guished olive oil expert and direc­tor of the lab­o­ra­tory at the Union of Agri­cul­tural Coop­er­a­tives in Rethymno, empha­sized the impor­tance of pro­duc­ers and bot­tlers expand­ing their knowl­edge in order to fur­ther improve the qual­ity of their final prod­uct, bot­tled and branded olive oil — an improve­ment facil­i­tated by inter­ac­tions between judges and par­tic­i­pants last week­end.


Crete pro­duces about 100,000 tons of high-qual­ity olive oil of two main vari­eties, Koroneiki, the island’s most com­mon vari­ety, and Tsounati, which is cul­ti­vated at higher alti­tudes in Crete. Most of the olive oils sub­mit­ted to the com­pe­ti­tion were either Koroneiki mono­va­ri­etal or Tsounati mono­va­ri­etal.

Ms. Ger­manaki and the other orga­niz­ers of the com­pe­ti­tion hope the Cre­tan Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion will help both Greeks and the rest of the world rec­og­nize the value of the unique qual­i­ties of Cre­tan olive oil, so that more of this oil will be bot­tled and branded on the island for export, rather than being sold in bulk at a cheaper price and mixed with var­i­ous oils that dis­guise its supe­rior qual­i­ties.

Today, the Greek econ­omy needs the kind of boost that recog­ni­tion of the value of its own brands of olive oil, includ­ing oil bot­tled here in Crete, could bring. The Cre­tan Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion seeks to empha­size the impor­tance of focus­ing on both qual­ity and mar­ket­ing here in Crete and, more broadly, in Greece, so Greek olive oils can begin to attain more of the recog­ni­tion they deserve.

This com­pe­ti­tion was note­wor­thy for the way numer­ous orga­ni­za­tions that deal with Cre­tan olive oil worked together with the Agro-Food Part­ner­ship of Crete and the Region of Crete in its sup­port: the Asso­ci­a­tion of Olive Munic­i­pal­i­ties of Crete (SEDYK), the Cre­tan Olive Oil Net­work, the Exporters’ Asso­ci­a­tion of Crete (SEK), the Organolep­tic Eval­u­a­tion Lab­o­ra­tory of the Union of Agri­cul­tural Coop­er­a­tives of Rethymno, the Asso­ci­a­tion of Olive Oil Labelling Pro­duc­ers of Crete (SYTEK), and the Insti­tute of [the] Olive Tree and Sub­trop­i­cal Plants of Cha­nia were all spon­sors of the com­pe­ti­tion.

If it con­tin­ues, such coop­er­a­tion among dif­fer­ent orga­ni­za­tions could help improve the posi­tion of Greek olive oil in the global mar­ket, where it could play a far more sig­nif­i­cant role in var­i­ous pop­u­la­tions’ embrace of the cel­e­brated Mediter­ranean (or Cre­tan) diet.

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