At an awards ceremony in Rethymno, Crete, Greece on March 12, winners of the 3rd Cretan Olive Oil Competition were announced. Intended to highlight the quality of Cretan extra virgin olive oils, this third edition of the competition impressed commentators for several reasons, including better quality olive oil, more samples, and a higher percentage of organic olive oils submitted compared to previous years.
It is our love for Crete that brings us here.
The winners for organic extra virgin olive oils (EVOOs) were Kardia Food’s Diva and Cretan Mill’s Agrelia Organic, tied for gold; Latzimas’s Latzimas Bio, with silver; and in a tie for bronze, Kostas Kalligiannis’s Zero One Premium and Nutricreta’s Organic Oleum of Sitia. The winning conventional EVOOs were Botzakis (Creta Oil) Olyssos, capturing the gold; Terra di Sitia’s Thema Extra Virgin Olive Oil, winning silver; and in a three-way tie for bronze, Eftychis Androulakis’s Pamako Blend Mountain EVOO, Cretan Mill’s PDO Sitia, and Psarakis’ Harvest EVOO.
Although the plan was to award just one gold, one silver, and one bronze “Elea” (meaning “olive”) award for the best conventional EVOOs and one of each for the best organic EVOOs, several extra awards were presented because of a number of identical scores. There were so many close high scores that honorable mentions were also awarded, reflecting the judges’ opinion that an impressive number of high-quality Cretan EVOOs were submitted, even in this difficult harvest year.
Vaso Savvaki of Botzakis told Olive Oil Times that Creta Oil was very proud of their Gold Elea award, which recognizes the expertise they have acquired and shared with their producers and the care they take with prompt cold extraction and proper storage procedures, as well as the investments they have made in their olive mills and “one of the most modern and integrated plants on the island of Crete.” Savvaki added, “prizes that our company won in international olive oil competitions in the last three years fill us with strength to try even more to enhance the quality of Cretan olive oil.”
Cretan Mill’s Maria Foule, who took home a Gold Elea for the Almpantakis family’s organic EVOO and a bronze for their conventional EVOO, told Olive Oil Times, “We’ve been in olive oil production for 150 years. We’re a family business. We put love, passion, and soul into what we do. We believe in competitions; they help us show what we do and what we love.” They export their EVOOs all over the world.
Babis Doukakis of Kardia Food explained that he was “full of joy” about their Gold Elea and wanted to dedicate “the award to our extraordinary team who gave their very best.” He believes “the spirit and courage to fail and the strength and discipline to stand up and try it all over again is the main reason for DIVA EVOO’s being valued in kitchens worldwide, with an emphasis on the highest totally flawless quality — exceptional flavor and taste that wows all with a composition from youth and maturity, freshness and depth.” Currently “evaluating business partners to bring DIVA to the great people of the United States of America,” Kardia Food is also “more than thrilled to participate in the world’s largest Olive Oil Competition in New York: NYIOOC 2017.”
All but two of the top ten winners at this Cretan competition were monovarietal Koroneiki EVOOs. Kardia Food’s gold-awarded Diva is a monovarietal Tsounati, while Androulakis’s bronze-winning Pamako Blend Mountain EVOO combines Koroneiki and Tsounati olives. Androulakis, whose organic Pamako Monovarietal Mountain EVOO, an honorable mention and close contender for a bronze, is also a monovarietal Tsounati, told Olive Oil Times, “finally, all my efforts to raise Tsounati from the dead are rewarded.” To make a great olive oil took him 40 nights with very little sleep, four years of efforts, and 42 experiments with temperatures, malaxation, crushing, decanter speeds, 2 olive mills, and 3 different inert gasses.
Philipp Notter, an experienced Swiss judge at this and other competitions, as well as a consultant, researcher, and writer praised “the very attentive direction of Eleftheria Germanaki and her staff” in Rethymno, Crete, which he found “absolutely professional and serious.” He also expressed great respect for “the guidance of the panel by Effie Christopoulou. It is a guarantee of the highest competence for this event (and I think she is also one of the most competent and experienced persons worldwide).” He believes the Cretan Olive Oil Competition can help Crete “deal very, very carefully with its great heritage of olive oil.”
Effie Christopoulou is a panel supervisor and recognized chemical and organoleptic trainer of the IOC as well as a chemical expert for the EU and the IOC. One of the pioneers of the organoleptic method back in 1982, she told the audience about the competition’s methodology and compared this year’s samples with those from the last two years. Christopoulou was pleased to report that there had been an increase from 69 to 81 samples submitted from 2015 to this year and a marked improvement in the percentage of samples with a grade of at least 65, from 84.1 percent in 2015 to 98.8 percent this year. Now, she added, it is necessary to take measures for Greek EVOOs to become better known in international competitions.
Italian agronomist, olive oil cultivation expert, consultant, internationally recognized judge, and 2014 NYIOOC panel leader Giuseppe Antonio Lauro was the other panel supervisor for this competition. He gave a presentation about the importance of various forms of marketing, emphasizing consumers’ interest in the story behind each product. Lauro told Olive Oil Times that he, too, was struck by the notable improvement in the quality of Cretan olive oil since the first Cretan competition just three years ago; in spite of the difficult harvest year, this year’s sample “quality was fantastic.”
Before awards were presented, the mayor of Rethymno and the governor of Crete commented on the importance of Cretan olive oil as an export that is recognized worldwide. Manolis Chnaris, president of the competition’s main sponsor, the Agronutritional Cooperation of the Region of Crete, called olive oil the “most important product on the island” and emphasized the importance of standardizing more Cretan olive oil to give it “a strong identity” so it would be more competitive in the international market, rather than being sold anonymously in bulk.
Judge Philipp Notter said he was “proud to be here because in Crete you are in the history of olive oil – at the roots,” and “I respect the roots.” Kardia Food’s Babis Doukakis told Olive Oil Times that his company intends to continue infusing their olive oil “with a breath of our own spirit, creating a vision of Crete the world joyously shares. It is our love for Crete that brings us here,” to win a Gold Elea at the 3rd Cretan Olive Oil Competition.