Competing with 903 olive oils from 26 countries at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, Greek extra virgin olive oils received 18 Gold Awards and 17 Silvers.
In this challenging harvest year, some of the top Greek winners discussed their methods, efforts, and emotions with Olive Oil Times.
This was a year where our passionate commitment to quality and thinking outside the box had to come into play to overcome the many obstacles that were presented to us.
Goutis Estate was the biggest Greek winner at NYIOOC, taking home two Golds and two Silvers for their Bitter Gray, Metron, Bella Vista, and Fresh extra virgin olive oils, respectively.
In spite of the difficult climatic conditions and pests in Greece this year, Nicolas Lambropoulos told Olive Oil Times that this success came from the Goutis Estate team’s “strict cultivation, production, extraction and marketing protocols, exhaustive attention to quality across the board, passion for the finest quality,” and respect for each other and for nature.
See more: NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition
“When nature challenges you, you have to stay calm,” he said. “You need to deploy all available resources, consolidated experience, and crisis management skills.” These deployments proved effective.
Eva Papadopoulou told Olive Oil Times that the leading Greek award winner at last year’s NYIOOC, Papadopoulos Olive Oil Mill, is now transitioning to a collaboration “under the umbrella of Mediterre International SA.”
Master miller and olive oil taster Konstantinos Papadopoulos remains in charge of the extra virgin olive oils that have been winning multiple awards in various competitions for several years, proving “our stability in quality and reliability for our clients.”
Papadopoulou pointed out that their precise cultivation and “careful production method, along with the appropriate storage conditions, lead to excellence” that is recognized year after year.
Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises was yet another Greek multi-award winner, taking home both a Gold Award for ACAIA Organic and a Silver for their conventionally-produced ACAIA extra virgin olive oils.
Ellie Tragakes told Olive Oil Times she and her team were thrilled at once again being recognized as one of the top olive oils in the world.
“This is the fifth year in a row that ACAIA has been honored at this very prestigious olive oil competition,” she said. “This is extremely rewarding for us, motivating us to continue our hard work to produce top quality olive oil, and helping us to bring worldwide recognition to Lesvos, our home island in the Aegean, where Kolovi olive oil originates.”
Tragakes added that ACAIA “has an unusually subtle flavor, with an excellent balance between fruitiness, bitterness and pungency along with a very high antioxidant content that helps make it especially healthy.”
As Androulakis emphasized, “we are truly obsessed with creating a gourmet organic olive oil every year, through constant experimentation and close observation of how each season is going to end.”
This year, he and his partner, Silver Award winner Michael Marakas, introduced dryers after washing, experimented with depitting before crushing and added the inert gas argon to the malaxer.
Delighted with their latest awards but never resting on their laurels, they are now “preparing the next season’s experiments and new ways of making a better olive oil” – their everlasting goal and project.
Another winner from Crete, George Proestakis of Ziro Sitias, explained that awards also encourage his team’s continued “persistence and patience, and a constant search for improvement, both in cultivation and extraction methods,” as well as careful storage.
They learn about the latest methods used in Italy, then adapt them to fit the local conditions in Crete. His team are also determined to “produce a pure product free of anything that would be considered harmful to humans or nature,” even a baby, meaning “no trace of chemicals at any stage of production, from the field to the vessel,” including no plastic touching their oils.
The result: his team is “delighted with the Gold Award in New York, in our eyes the peak of all international olive oil competitions.”
Meanwhile, Diamantis Pierrakos said winning a Gold Award at NYIOOC, one of “the Oscars in the olive oil world,” for his family’s Laconiko extra virgin olive oil “is our confirmation and recognition that we produce a great olive oil.”
“This year’s award was especially important for us, with all the challenges we had to overcome, to prove that in our sixth consecutive year receiving an award is not an accident, and that we can produce a great olive oil even in the worst of conditions,” Pierrakos added. “This was a year where our passionate commitment to quality and thinking outside the box had to come into play to overcome the many obstacles that were presented to us.”
Gold Award winner Peter Liokareas also reflected on the extra challenges of this harvest year. He said that he felt horrible for the producers who were struggling, but also felt a great sense of pride for Messinia and Laconia in the Peloponnese.
He was proud that the farmers he talked with there had not given up on the production of this great product for which the region is known, but demonstrated amazing determination, a dedication to quality and very hard work.
“It all starts with family, tradition and experience,” Liokareas said. “We have been doing this for more than 150 years and five generations, and every year we learn something new. We carefully take part in every step of production, overseeing that everything is done correctly.”
Many factors contributed to the success of NYIOOC’s top winners this year. Goutis Estate’s Nicolas Lambropoulos offered an explanation that may apply to a number of them.
“Perfection needs devotion. Devotion needs passion,” he said. Rapidly evolving technology and scientific discoveries are more easily accessible than ever before, but “their use depends on our passion for quality and the combination of accumulated knowledge, clear goal-setting, and strategic planning.”