Greek brands had their best showing ever, earning an all-time record of 69 of the world's most coveted olive oil quality awards.
Part of our continuing coverage of the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
In the era of the coronavirus and extraordinary measures, the plan devised by the organizers of the world’s premier olive oil quality contest to overcome obstacles stemming from travel and transport restrictions finally led to the unveiling of the winners of 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition Friday.
The judging panel of olive oil experts worked remotely to test and evaluate 881 olive oil samples from 26 countries around the world and the official results have so far been seen by more than a half-million food industry professionals, international press producers and enthusiasts, the NYIOOC reported.
Greek producers and exporters won 69 awards — 30 Gold and 39 Silver — far outperforming last year’s tally of 35 awards in total, and the best overall performance for the country in the contest’s eight years.See more: The Best Olive Oils from Greece
A producer from Crete, Pamako, expanded its collection of prizes from the NYIOOC competition winning two Gold Awards for its namesake organic Tsounati monovarietal and the Pamako Mountain Organic Blend made from Tsounati and Koroneiki.
Eftychios Androulakis said that Pamako was victorious despite difficult times for the Cretan olive oil sector.
“We are very glad to win at the NYIOOC for a third consecutive year, and even more since now we won two Gold Awards for our olive oils after the worst harvest season in Crete in the last decade,” Androulakis told Olive Oil Times.
“The next season seems promising, but we cannot be certain of anything until the olive trees flowering process is completed. We are organic producers and every year we face new surprises. On the other hand, we have to be prepared and adapt to nature’s demands and not expect nature to adapt to us.”
Androulakis also explained that the key to a successful olive oil yield is to continuously experiment and seek new processes and developments in the whole production chain.
“The NYIOOC prizes is our reward for seven years of constant experimentation from the field to the mill and finally to packaging our oil. We prepare some changes for the next season and we work with passion and love for the olive oil. There are no magical recipes after all,” he said.
The Greek company Neolea took a Gold Award for its monovarietal at the world’s premier olive oil quality contest. The company produces extra virgin olive oil in Kalamata from Koroneiki olives.
“The organoleptic profile of 2019 early harvest was a bit unbalanced. Whereas you would expect more bitters in an early harvest, as opposed to fruitiness, this year’s early harvest had an excess of bitterness. This resulted in a longer-than-usual harvest period,” Manten said.
Neolea won a Gold Award for its delicate Koroneiki. The oil took Silver in 2017.
“At Neolea we harvest fine food to our own rhythm and it’s fantastic to see more and more people like our beat, including the sommeliers. It is a great acknowledgment of the efforts the Neolea team took together with the farmers and the olive press in Manessi,” Manten said.
Evgenia Andriopoulos from Makaria Terra, a company based in the bountiful Messinia region of the Peloponnese, was happy to discuss the company’s achievement at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
“After years of hard work, devotion, attention to detail and respect for the olive tree, we have managed to be among the best olive oils of the world,” Andriopoulos told us.
“Each year we produce an exquisite olive oil with compound flavors that transfer to the whole world the harmony and peace of the land of Makaria Terra that we cultivate with hard toil.”
Andriopoulos said the coming years are not expected to be easier and less challenging than those of the past: “Determination and dedication are required to invest in even better products and use the proper networks to channel quality Greek olive oil to global markets.”
“We will continue to produce and bottle olive oil coming exclusively from our private olive groves, which is essential in order to keep our high standards of quality,” she added. “Our guide at Makaria Terra is the noble look and great effort of our ancestors who planted and grew the olive trees and were carrying water with their hands for hundreds of yards. We continue the journey with respect, consistency and determination.”
Makaria Terra received a Gold Award for its extra virgin olive oil made from the Koroneiki variety and is a third-time NYIOOC Gold Award winner.
Laconiko, an olive oil producer from Lakonia has managed to build a winning tradition at the NYIOOC, picking up awards for seven years in a row. This time, Laconiko won a Gold Award for its medium-intensity Koroneiki and a Silver Award for the Olio Nuovo Reserve label.
Diamantis Pierrakos was grateful for the distinction.
“My brother Dino and I are thrilled to be recognized for the 7th consecutive year at this competition,” he told us. “Being recognized gives us a sense of accomplishment for the emotional and physical exhaustion put into making our olive oil. Our emotions are running very high right now.”
Pierrakos was also quick to acknowledge the contribution of the customers of Laconiko in the company’s success.
“All the awards we have ever received are because of [our customers],” he said. “Without their love and appreciation all these years we have never had the motivation to offer the best of ourselves, and for those reasons alone we cannot risk to disappoint them. We thank you for believing in us.”
Little Gypsy Farms is another producer from Greece to secure a Gold Award for its extra virgin olive oil from the Koroneiki variety. The olives from their privately-owned groves in southern Peloponnese are handpicked and carefully processed at their mill to give an extra virgin with an aftertaste of radish and flowers.
“We are so thankful as an independent craft producer to have our EVOO recognized,” said the owner George Gyftakis. “Breaking through all the established ‘industrial’ olive oil brands can be difficult so the work you do at the NYIOOC hosting this event with unbiased EVOO sommeliers is truly valued by producers like us.”
“Our goal is to bring a trusted bottle of our family-owned and estate-grown EVOO in a process typically seen only from wineries. We control the growing, harvest, pressing and bottling — achieving a craft quality you can taste,” he added.
“Our growing philosophy has always been to let nature take its course with old-growth heirloom trees and by emphasizing quality over quantity. We do not use pesticides, fertilizers or artificial irrigation. The results are a nutritionally concentrated and more flavorful EVOO.”
Gyftakis acknowledged the prevailing microclimate of their area and he praised the work of the past generations that enabled his extra virgin olive oil to become a reality.
“Our family, whose surname translates to ‘Little Gypsy,’ has always been a resourceful tribe. Our ancestors took to the mountains, fulfilling their namesake without a home, eventually settling on the fertile ground alongside the Mediterranean Sea,” he said.
“This seaside land between mountains in the southern Peloponnese of Greece provided an advantageous microclimate, always a few degrees warmer in the winter with more rainfall courtesy of the nearby peaks. Here, we began to grow.”
A new entry and a first-time winner of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition is Alexandros Olive Oil company from Alexandroupolis in northern Greece.
Alexandros won a Gold Award for the Alexandros Special Edition extra virgin from early-harvested olives and a Silver Award for the Alexandros Black Edition, both made from the Makri variety.
“We weren’t much into competitions until recently,” the owner Alexandros Voukoureslis told Olive Oil Times. “But the prizes at the NYIOOC are the acknowledgment of our determination to make olive oil of top quality, and they signal this quality to our customers. We have created a new olive oil mill of high standards and our hard work and efforts have paid off.”