Competing with 701 samples from 24 countries at Olive Japan, Greek olive oils won 3 Gold Medals and 28 Silvers. Some of the top Greek winners shared their reactions and priorities, as well as the techniques that helped produce a variety of excellent extra virgin olive oils in a year when many producers struggled with adverse weather and the olive fly.
Competition director Toshiya Tada reported that “we found really good stable quality olive oil among those award winning oils.” American judge Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne similarly commented, “in this year of tremendous challenges for some regions, we still tasted some excellent oils.” They came from a wide variety of olives, including many from various regions in Greece.
Argyris Kelidis’s Kyklopas S.A. captured a Gold Medal and the Best of Greece award for Kyklopas Early Harvest, a medium intensity Makri monovarietal extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). Valia Kelidou told Greek Liquid Gold her family is very proud of these accomplishments and glad they will help prove the high quality of their olive oil to the Japanese people, since Kyklopas already exports from northeastern Greece to Japan.
Kelidou adds that this addition to their long list of awards once again confirms that Kyklopas can produce stable quality even in a difficult harvest year. “Our family works hard for this result, and we thank the whole world for the love it shows our products.” Visitors from around the world come to their olive groves and factory for tours, olive oil tastings, and visits to ancient trees. In fact, Kelidou also received an award in northern Greece to recognize her efforts as a young professional in the tourism business.
At Olive Japan, AMACS – Goutis Estate earned a Gold Medal for Goutis Estate Bitter Gray, a medium intensity Nemoutiana monovarietal EVOO, as well as an impressive five Silver Medals for their Balanced blend of Koroneiki and Manaki; Bella Vista Koroneiki monovarietal; Blossom blend of Koroneiki, Manaki, and Makri; Metron blend of Koroneiki and Nemoutiana; and Sea Breeze Koroneiki. Nicolas Lambropoulos emphasized the importance of “teamwork and fun” for the staff at Goutis Estate. Their olive groves are mainly in the hills around the Alfeios valley in western Peloponnese. They received a great deal of rain before the last harvest, which led to well balanced EVOOs with lower intensity than last year, and plenty of opportunities for singing in the rain.
Hellenic Agricultural Enterprises took home a Gold Medal for their ACAIA Organic EVOO, a medium intensity Kolovi monovarietal, plus a Silver for their conventionally produced ACAIA medium intensity Kolovi EVOO. As Ellie Tragakes informed Greek Liquid Gold, “this is the sixth year in a row that we have been recognized by Olive Japan for our excellent quality olive oils with the brand name ACAIA. From the very first year of our production, 2014, our efforts and our love for what we do have been immensely rewarded. We feel inspired to continue our work to create great olive oil and earn global recognition for our home island, Lesvos.”
Papadopoulos Olive Oil – Mediterre earned four Silver Medals, for Mediterre Alea Organic, a medium intensity Koroneiki monovarietal; Mediterre Lena, a medium blend of Koroneiki and Manaki varietals; Mythocia Early Harvest Olympia PGI Organic, a medium intensity Koroneiki; and Omphacium, a medium intensity Olympia from olive groves near Ancient Olympia. As their list of award-winning EVOOs suggests, the team at Papadopoulos Olive Oil – Mediterre is especially interested in working with a number of different olive varieties. They do so with great care all the way “from the tree to the bottle,” as Eva Papadopoulou explained.
MFSA/Olea Groves won two Silver Medals at Olive Japan, for Olea Juice™ (Red), a robust blend of Manaki and Koroneiki oils, and Olea Juice™ (Tender), a delicate blend of the same EVOOs. Ritsi Frances reported that “love, passion, and hard work led to this excellent olive oil.” The work included hand picking, washing, removal of pits, very cold extraction (at 19 degrees Celsius instead of 27), and the unusual step of removing the olive skin before oil extraction, in order to be sure any pesticides the wind brings to their unsprayed olive groves would not turn up in their olive oil.
Terra Creta also captured two Silver Medals at Olive Japan, for Terra Creta Grand Cru Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a delicate Koroneiki monovarietal, and Terra Creta Organic EVOO, another delicate Koroneiki monovarietal. Emmanouil Karpadakis explained to Greek Liquid Gold that their Grand Cru is a “new product produced from our new production line under a totally new extraction procedure that revealed a different organoleptic character, more fresh, exciting, complex.” Both their Grand Cru and their Organic EVOO also benefit from extensive experience and from Terra Creta’s collaboration with an oleologist, an agronomist, and contract farmers. Their collaborations and vertical organization allow them both flexibility and control over the production process.
Olive Japan is organized by the Olive Oil Sommelier Association of Japan (OSAJ), Japan’s only professional organization for training and certifying olive oil experts, which is independent from any commercial organization dealing with olives or olive oil, and is chaired and directed by Toshiya Tada. Since Olive Japan limits judges to tasting no more than 35 olive oils per day, “in order to secure accurate judging,” according to Tada, there were 26 judges from 14 countries this year. Alexandra Devarenne told Greek Liquid Gold “Olive Japan has the most diverse jury I know of in the world of olive oil competitions. Working with these judges is a privilege.”
For the first time this year, Olive Japan plans to publish an official Buyers’ Guide to introduce Gold and Premier winners with a product photo and brief description. The Olive Japan Show where winners can exhibit their products will be held July 19-24, and the awards ceremony will take place on July 21. For the complete lists of winners, see the Olive Japan website.
Thanks to Kyklopas and Goutis Estate for the photos used with this article.
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