The Karabelas brothers offer a unique tourist destination, award-winning quality and plenty of enthusiasm.
In the western Peloponnese, just a stone’s throw from Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games and a sacred land to all Greeks, a local producer works to reach a global audience.
Run by brothers Alexis and Francesco Karabelas, award-winning AMG Karabelas makes the most of the land, the area’s ancient heritage and the two brothers’ determination to produce world-class olive oil.
The pandemic had a catalytic effect on us since we closed down for a whole year, and we were able to organize better and execute our plan.
“The land here is very fertile,” Alexis Karabelas told Olive Oil Times. “It is no wonder that a lot of agricultural products produced here are exported worldwide. There is great potential, but only a few well-organized efforts from local producers.”
In 2015, the Karabelas brothers returned from their universities to their homeland to pursue their dream of producing high-quality extra virgin olive oil from family-owned olive groves.See Also:Producer Profiles
“Our family has been in the agritourism business since 2008,” Karabelas said. “Our parents Dimitris and Franca envisioned offering the visitors to the nearby Olympia archaeological site a taste of locally made products, including wine, homemade marmalade and olive oil.”
“They were successful from the outset, with their small establishment teeming with thousands of tourists each year,” he added.
The two brothers employed the family wisdom and experience in cultivating olive trees and olive oil production from the previous four generations. They also attended seminars on olive oil tasting and mastered the modern techniques of olive oil production.
Being quick on the uptake, they quickly acquired the necessary knowledge to carefully plan their steps into the olive oil business.
“The first thing to do was to turn the family olive groves organic,” Karabelas said. “We also designed and built our state-of-the-art olive oil mill completely from scratch.”
AMG Karabelas was born in 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, aiming to introduce people worldwide to high-quality extra virgin olive oil from the fruitful land of Ancient Olympia.
“We wanted to make our olive oil available everywhere in the world,” Karabelas added. “The pandemic had a catalytic effect on us since we closed down for a whole year, and we were able to organize better and execute our plan. On the other hand, it was very hard to come by construction workers and building materials due to the restrictions imposed.”
Complemented by Magna Grecia, the Karabelas brothers’ oleotourism business, AMG Karabelas boasts a variety of activities available to those looking to indulge in a journey in the world of olive oil.
“We offer our guests a first-hand experience of how olive oil is produced through guided tours,” Karabelas said. “They can visit our mill and attend a video simulation on how olive harvesting is done. But if they visit us during harvest, they can experience the real thing. And, of course, no tour is completed without tasting our olive oils.”.
The Karabelas brothers grow 6,000 olive trees of the Koroneiki, Kolireiki and Kalamon varieties stretching between the Olympia archaeological site and the mighty Alfeios River, the largest river on the Peloponnese peninsula. However, the local Tsabidoelia olive variety has always had a special meaning for the brothers.
The local cultivar won a Gold Award for the company at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition for the Laurel and Flame Fresh extra virgin made from early harvested Tsabidoelia olives.
“Tsabidoelia is starting to take the place it deserves among Greek olive varieties,” Karabelas said. “The satisfaction we get gives us the strength to continue our hard work.”
AMG Karabelas earned its other Gold Award for the Flame Olympia PGI blend from Koroneiki and Kolireiki olives, enabling the company to repeat its success in the 2022 competition with two Gold Awards from two entries.
“The New York competition is the greatest olive oil competition in the world,” added Karabelas, who went on to explain the importance of participating in the NYIOOC for the company.
“Most of our guests looking to enjoy a pure oleotourism experience come from the United States,” he said. “Over the years, we have created a unique olive oil club of American customers who expect their olive oil to be delivered to their doorsteps each year.”
“So, in a way, we felt compelled to participate in the competition, firstly to honor our American customers by exhibiting the quality of our olive oils and to be able to enter new markets,” Karabelas added.
“It is no secret that our exclusive sales representative for the Northern American market was able to track us down through the NYIOOC,” he added.
In the family groves, everything pertaining to growing the olive trees and harvesting the olives is meticulously programmed and planned to fit the high standards of olive oil production the company has put forward.
“We are totally organic,” Karabelas said. “We also only use battery-operated equipment for harvesting to avoid contamination of the olives from internal combustion engines and mineral oil hydrocarbons. The byproducts from the harvest — small branches and twigs — are ground on-site and incorporated into the soil. ”
Another arrow in the company’s quiver is installing a network of microclimatic stations in the olive groves to record and transmit essential data.
Karabelas said that various information, including air temperature and humidity, soil humidity and salinity, and a reading of the total dissolved solids in the soil, is readily available daily.
“All these data enable us to reduce the use of organic fertilizers and save on water by watering the trees only when needed,” he noted.
Strict production protocols are also followed during the processing of the olives at the family-owned mill.
“We have installed the most modern lines of equipment for processing olives and bottling olive oil,” Karabelas said. “The olives are processed within three to four hours from arrival, and the produced olive oil is filtered and stored in stainless steel tanks capped with inert gas. In advance, all the required packaging procedures take place in the mill.”
In addition, every bottle of extra virgin olive oil the company sells carries a QR code to explain the history of the oil to the consumers.
“We decided to implement the code after sensing the uncertainty of our visitors from all over the world regarding olive oil,” Karabelas said. “It also contains recipes, food pairing suggestions and, more importantly, informative articles to help consumers avoid being misled when buying olive oil.”
Expansion plans are on the table for AMG Karabelas, with the brothers looking to expand their range of products beyond olive oil.
“We want to create a multifunctional estate,” Karabelas said. “We plan to build a winery next to our olive mill and step into the world of essential oils production. We also envision setting up an association of local olive growers and building a solid, long-term relationship with them.”
“Of course, Ancient Olympia is by itself the strongest brand name around, drawing in thousands of people each year,” he added. “We hope to be able to live up to the glorious heritage of our place.”