Award Winners in Greece Discuss a Feverish Season Before a Bountiful Harvest

The 2021/22 crop year required a swift harvest and milling due to unusually high temperatures. The coming crop year is shaping up to be better.
skoudari
Jun. 27, 2022
Costas Vasilopoulos

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The bril­liant per­for­mance of Greek olive oil pro­duc­ers and bot­tlers in the tenth edi­tion of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition – an impres­sive tally of 79 awards (45 Gold and 34 Silver) – was felt across the coun­try’s olive oil sec­tor.

Yiorgos Economou, the gen­eral direc­tor of the Greek Association of Olive Oil Bottlers (SEVITEL), attrib­uted the country’s strong show­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion to the pro­duc­ers’ dili­gence and tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ments.

The tem­per­a­tures have so far remained within nor­mal lev­els, and the flow­er­ing of the olive trees is con­tin­u­ing unob­structed. However, we have a long way until the next har­vest.- Maria Sgourou, olive oil pro­ducer, Skoutari

The dec­o­ra­tions of Greek olive oils in the NYIOOC and other inter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions applaud the effort of the coun­try’s pro­duc­ers and bot­tlers to select the best raw mate­ri­als and adhere to the strict reg­u­la­tory frame of [olive oil] pro­duc­tion,” Economou told Olive Oil Times. They are also proof of the improv­ing tech­no­log­i­cal approaches towards the qual­ity of extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Economou revised the country’s over­all olive oil yield down to around 200,000 tons from the expected 225,000 tons, plac­ing the qual­ity of the pro­duced olive oil under the spot­light.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Greece

Apart from some prob­lems with the organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics of the olive oils in a few pro­duc­ing ter­ri­to­ries, we can talk of olive oil of top-notch qual­ity,” he said.

The effort of all involved bod­ies and agen­cies to bet­ter inform and advise olive grow­ers and pro­duc­ers is con­tin­u­ing to reaf­firm the rep­u­ta­tion of Greek olive oil at an inter­na­tional level; an olive oil with an intense fruity fla­vor, nat­ural aro­mas and no defects,” Economou added.

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A con­sen­sus on a chal­leng­ing sea­son and the need to accel­er­ate the har­vest­ing and pro­cess­ing of the olives is evi­dent among Greek pro­duc­ers who excelled at the com­pe­ti­tion this year.

Maria Spiliakopoulos, a third-gen­er­a­tion pro­ducer and the owner of Gold Award win­ner Oliorama from Ancient Olympia, stressed the impor­tance of a quick and well-coor­di­nated har­vest­ing oper­a­tion through­out the sea­son.

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Maria Spiliakopoulos

This year’s chal­lenge was the tim­ing,” Spiliakopoulos told Olive Oil Times. Harvesting had to be done quickly. The trans­porta­tion and milling [of the olives] had to be done on the same day, within a few hours of har­vest.”

Alexis Karabelas of AMG Karabelas, a first-time entrant from Ancient Olympia who earned two Gold Awards, said that the dry weather and the wild­fires that broke out in the area last August were the biggest obsta­cles to repeat­ing a rich olive oil yield. In addi­tion, the sea­son turned out to be more labo­ri­ous and fast-mov­ing than usual.

This sea­son, the big bet was to keep to the high pro­duc­tion stan­dards of the pre­vi­ous 2021/22 crop year,” Karabelas said. Our har­vest­ing method and the small dis­tance from our olive groves to the fam­ily mill, where we were press­ing olives every three hours, were the key to a suc­cess­ful pro­duc­tion.”

A change of plans was also nec­es­sary for My Olive Tree, the proud holder of a 2022 NYIOOC Gold Award, to with­stand the impact of the pre­vail­ing weather con­di­tions at the time.

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Photo: My Olive Tree

The severe heat­wave the coun­try expe­ri­enced last sum­mer warned us of a low olive oil crop,” co-owner Georgios Karelas said. Nevertheless, we changed our rou­tine and started har­vest­ing in late October, being able to pro­duce an aro­matic olive oil of high fla­vor com­plex­ity.”

Karelas added that the weather vari­a­tions in recent years pose a sig­nif­i­cant threat to olive oil pro­duc­tion, par­tic­u­larly impact­ing small-scale pro­duc­ers.

A lot has changed since 2014 when we were first awarded at the NYIOOC,” he said. The weather has become unpre­dictable, and our job has become harder. There are a lot of chal­lenges and exter­nal fac­tors small olive farm grow­ers have to deal with.”

After a har­vest­ing sea­son rid­dled with tor­rid weather, pro­duc­ers from Greece embarked with their pre­cious olive oils on their annual jour­ney to the NYIOOC, where they com­pete against other world-class extra vir­gin olive oils from around the world.

This year, a record 1,267 olive oils from 28 coun­tries entered the con­test, the largest and most diverse col­lec­tion of extra vir­gin olive oils in the competition’s chron­i­cles.

The impor­tance of the com­pe­ti­tion is evi­dent by the sheer num­ber of com­peti­tors regard­less of whether they were awarded or not,” Karabelas said. We were very anx­ious about the results, but every­thing went fine, and we won two Gold Awards from two entries in our first par­tic­i­pa­tion in the con­test.”

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Alexis Karabelas

AMG Karabelas was awarded for its Laurel & Flame Olympia PGI blend from Koroneiki and Kolireiki olives, and the Laurel and Flame Fresh, made from olives of a widely unknown vari­ety, the Tsabidolia of Olympia.

Tsabidolia is not even listed on the national list of plant vari­eties,” Karabelas said. It is our com­mit­ment to con­firm the extra vir­gin from the Tsabidolia vari­ety as equiv­a­lent to estab­lished mono­va­ri­etals made from cul­ti­vars such as the Koroneiki and Arbequina.”

For return­ing com­peti­tor Oliorama, excite­ment for being crowned at the com­pe­ti­tion never ceased to exist despite the numer­ous awards the com­pany has received over the years.

It is a great honor and accom­plish­ment to be among the awarded oils for sev­eral years now, since 2016,” Maria Spiliakopoulos said. It feels ful­fill­ing and reward­ing, and It takes great effort and per­sis­tence to get such results.”

The com­pany won a Gold Award at the 2022 NYIOOC for its name­sake Exclusive PGI Olympia mono­va­ri­etal olive oil from Koroneiki.

A Gold Award at the NYIOOC makes us happy and greatly boosts our self-con­fi­dence,” Karelas of My Olive Tree told Olive Oil Times. Everybody in the olive oil busi­ness knows that these awards should be among their pri­mary goals year after year, but some­times they are out of reach for small pro­duc­ers.”

The com­pany received a Gold Award at the 2022 NYIOOC for its name­sake del­i­cate mono­va­ri­etal extra vir­gin olive oil from Koroneiki.

AMG Karabelas, Oliorama and My Olive Tree all agreed that, although a bit early for pro­jec­tions, the next 2022/23 crop year is expected bet­ter to suit their desire for improved olive oil pro­duc­tion.

Until now, the weather is our ally, and we are opti­mistic for an even bet­ter har­vest­ing sea­son than before,” Karelas said.

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Photo: Androulakis Olive Oil Bottling

Other pro­duc­ers, includ­ing Skoutari and Androulakis Olive Oil Bottling from the island of Crete, both awarded at the 2022 NYIOOC, also con­curred with their coun­ter­parts from con­ti­nen­tal Greece for a more robust har­vest in the 2022/23 crop year.

The tem­per­a­tures have so far remained within nor­mal lev­els, and the flow­er­ing of the olive trees is con­tin­u­ing unob­structed,” Maria Sgourou of Skoutari said. However, we have a long way until the next har­vest, and we must do every­thing required to secure the health of our olive fruits.”


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