This year, Greek olive oil producers overcame a difficult harvest for their best performance yet at the New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC), more than tripling last year’s success rate and taking home more awards than ever before: 46 awards, 20 of them gold. The impressive accomplishment during an economic crisis, in competition with a record-breaking 910 olive oils from 27 countries, confirmed Greek producers’ dedication to excellence.
There is no higher honor. The holy grail, the NYIOOC, has validated our ideals and efforts.
A number of the producers, marketers, and exporters of the world’s best Greek extra virgin olive oils shared with Olive Oil Times what their NYIOOC awards meant to them, how they managed to produce extra virgin olive oils (EVOOs) good enough to earn the industry’s top honors, and how this fits in with their company philosophies.
Two Greek companies won not one, but two, Gold Awards. One of these was Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises, with Golds for two medium extra virgin olive oils produced from the rare Kolovi olive native to Lesvos. Ellie Tragakes said they “are thrilled with the results of the NYIOOC, because our premium brand ACAIA won Gold for the second year in a row, and our much newer brand Aeolian Olive also won Gold. We hope that the prestige of the NYIOOC will mean that both our brands will receive growing worldwide recognition for their exceptional quality and taste.”
The other Greek company with two Gold Awards at the NYIOOC this year was PJ Kabos, with Golds for PJ Kabos and PJ Kabos 11-12-16, both medium Koroneiki EVOOs from the Ancient Olympia area. As James Panagiotopoulos commented, “even though God has blessed us with awards every year since we started participating in competitions, the anticipation and hope of seeing our name in the award ‘credits’ live from New York each year is still there. Actually it is an even more intense feeling than the first year we participated; reaching the top is easy compared to the effort and motivation it takes to stay there!”
Three Greek companies each won a Gold Award accompanied by a Silver Award this year. Great Stories P.C., producers of 39/22 EVOO, won a Gold for their 39/22 Medium Koroneiki and a Silver for their 39/22 medium Manaki. Lefteris Komatas considers this more “proof that we are good at what we do, and we aren’t a firework” that merely produces a short-lived, brilliant display, but a consistently multiple-award-winning enterprise. “Quality for us is the secret and our priority at every level, even if we have to ‘sacrifice’ quantity, money, time or anything else.” They are also proud to offer a choice of three monovarietal EVOOs, which they never blend, preferring to let each variety showcase its own special qualities.
Panagiotis Kotsilimpas said of the NYIOOC Gold Award for Amphora Olympia PGI Organic Early Harvest, a delicate Koroneiki, and the Silver for Amphora Olympia PGI Classic Early Harvest, a medium Koroneiki, “there is no higher honor. The holy grail, the NYIOOC, has validated our ideals and efforts,” extensive research and painstaking attention to all phases of production. Since receiving “mindboggling” results from a lab testing his family’s EVOO, it has become his “lifetime ambition to gather the greatest olive oil minds possible, and give hope to local producers that their efforts will not go unseen.”
Founders Michael Olaes and George Kapeleris of Patrida Imports, producers of Lidrivio EVOO, were “incredibly excited that all of our hard work and dedication has been recognized” by their NYIOOC awards, a Gold for Lidrivio, a medium blend, and a Silver for Lidrivio LE, a medium Athenoelia. Olaes emphasized the importance of their use of Athenoelia olives, “a rare olive only available in the southern region of Greece.” He explained that Grandmother or “Yiayia, our family matriarch who lived to the incredible age of 114, was the driving force behind Lidrivio. Her passion for life, olive oil, and the Mediterranean diet inspired us to keep the family tradition of picking and pressing olives alive.”
Several of this year’s Gold Award winners also shared their thoughts with Olive Oil Times. Evgenia Andriopoulou discussed her pride in Makaria Terra’s second NYIOOC Gold Award for their medium Koroneiki in recent years. With their other awards, this “proves our consistency and commitment to the production of the finest olive oil every year,” which they achieve by “treating our olive trees with abundant respect,” as “members of our family.”
Panayiotis Skopeteas credited the unique combination of soil, water, sunshine, and “stable ambient temperature” that make up the “idyllic Mediterranean climate” of Exohorio, Mani, Peloponnese for the quality of “our miraculous olive oil,” Gold Award winning Immortalitas, a delicate Koroneiki.
Konstantine Melissinos was surprised by the Gold Award for Melissinos Estate Reserve, an Organic Medium Blend of ancient olive varieties, “because our focus this year was to create an olive oil with high phenolic content to explore the medicinal aspects of the product. So we are very excited that we were able to produce an olive oil that was recognized for both taste and quality, and its health benefits.”
Vitsentzos Kornaros, a second-time NYIOOC Gold Award winner for Chrisopigi PDO Sitia Lasithiou Kritis, a medium Koroneiki, mentioned that this distinction at the world’s largest EVOO competition “gives our customers the satisfaction of having made the right choice, and opens more paths for new collaborations.”
Fotis Mavroudis said Olympian Green was not satisfied with last year’s 10 awards, since none came from the NYIOOC, but now “we are really thrilled and honored to be awarded the 2017 Gold NYIOOC Award” for Olympian Green Oly Oil Traditional, a medium Koroneiki, which he expects will “strongly enhance” their international recognition.
Panagiotis Kotsilimpas of Amphora Olympia believes “these awards carry a great responsibility. A responsibility to do what is right always, especially when no one is watching.” Many producers do. For PJ Kabos’s James Panagiotopoulos and others, this work “is more than just producing olive oil; it is a way of life.”