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If you’re lucky you’ll get to try some of the best olive oil in Greece during your trip. Whether you enjoy some of the country’s delicious olive oil on a traditional Greek salad or go to a dedicated tasting session you’ll no doubt want to take home some of the best.
But how do you go about finding that? And can you get it online or at a Hellenic supermarket near home when you run out?
Greece as a World-Class Olive Oil Producer
Olive oil, the staple of the Mediterranean diet, has been highly intertwined with Greek history and culture since ancient times. Needless to say, the olive industry is big business. Before living in the country I had no idea there were international olive oil competitions.
When I did, I was surprised to find out that it wasn’t until 2020 that a Greek extra-virgin olive oil received a top ten ranking by the EVOO World Ranking (WR).
But since then the Greek accolades within the olive oil industry have been piling up despite challenging conditions. In 2021 many regions suffered damaged or destroyed olive trees when wildfires swept across the area. And before that, a record-breakingly hot summer threatened the 2021/22 harvest.
Facts About Greek Olive Oil
- 80% of the olive oils produced in Greece are extra virgin olive oils (EVOO), much higher than in other countries like Italy and Spain
- most olive oil in Greece comes from koroneiki olives
- the koroneiki variety is a small fruit that produces small quantities of high-quality oil
- in 2021 Greece came top for the country with the best-flavoured oil at the EVOOWR
- Greece has about 30 areas of Protected Designated Origin (PDO) or products that are Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)
Protected Designated Origin
Kalamata olives are the Koromeiki olives grown in the specific region of Kalamata in the southern Peloponnese. PDO products must only come from the specified region. (Like only sparkling white wine from the Champagne area of France can be called champagne).
PDO products honour traditional farming techniques and the local knowledge of the art and science of growing the best product. The designation of origin also factors in the unique characteristics of the soil, and regional climate.
The Best Olive Oil in Greece
EVOOs of the world all have different tastes to them. Even within Greece flavours are influenced by the unique soil make-up, climate and processing used in a particular area of the country. The oils listed below are the ones that have come up top in international competitions. But you might still like to try a variety of different oils to find your favourite(s).
To find stockists in your country Greek Liquid Gold: Authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil website has a really helpful list. They give online options too.
So, in no particular order:
- Terra Creta Grand Cru In 2021 this Cretan olive oil came second in the world at the EVOO World Ranking (EVOOWR).
- Terra Creta PDO Kolymvari Terra Creta’s Grand Cru is not the only winner from this company. The Kolymvari won gold in the Koroneiki medium category at the NYIOOC competition.
If you’re visiting Chania you can book a 1-hour tour at the Terra Creta site 25 minutes from the city.
The next three oils are from Mediterre Eurofood an award-winning company based near ancient Olympia. In 2021 they actually won more awards than any other Greek company for their extra virgin olive oil
- Mediterre Omphacium Organic This is an award winning organic olive oil that is made by a production process based on Hippocratic methods. Hippocrates would take olive oil from an early harvest that was milled at room temperature to be used medicinally
- Mediterre Alea Organic In 2022 Alea was awarded the gold award as the best Koroneiki medium oil at the NYIOOC olive oil competition and was described as having the “perfect taste”
- Mediterre Olymp Olympia PGI This is one of the most awarded Greek EVOO products and again is certified organic. This oil is actually a blend of two different olives, Kolireiki and Koroneiki. It’s intensely fruity with a bitter and pungent finish. Olymp is a versatile oil that can be used for grilling and as a dressing
Sakellaropoulos Organic Farms has won a staggering 500+ awards for its many oils from their olive groves near Sparta in the Peloponnese.
- Agourelaio ranked in the top 10 oils worldwide in its variety in 2021 at the EVOOWR
They were second in the world of Societies of Flavored Olive Oils category at the EVOOWR in 2021 so give one of those a try:
- Gemstone Blend infused with basil, ginger and lime
- Majestic Blend Gourmet Flavored Evoo with lemongrass and tarragon
- Syllektikon Flavored Evoo with wild thyme, orange and lemon juice
The olives and oils are so high in phenols that they’re actually used in health studies by Harvard and Yale Universities, amongst others. So you’d do well to pick an oil from their new premium extra virgin olive oils:
- Plus Health Multivarietal range
Laconiko is another brand based in Laconia in the Peloponnese. The Laconiko Estate also use organic farming methods to produce higher quality olive oil. Like Sakellaropoulos the Laconiko oils have a very high polyphenol count making them excellent for health.
- Laconiko Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Certified high phenolic EVOO)
- Laconiko Olio Nuovo (1st Certified high phenolic EVOO in North America)
Laurel and Flame oils would be worth buying just for the bottles in my opinion! Luckily the brand from The Olive Temple in Olympia are have won many gold awards too. If you’re in the area you can join tasting and soap-making experiences at the Temple
- Laurel & Flame Fresh Early Harvest, Organic and Olympia PGI
- PJ Kabos Family Reserve Organic – Medium is from around the same area and is another organic oil very high in healthy polyphenols
- MY OLIVE TREE Extra Virgin Olive Oil – another award recipient made from the Kalamata olive variety. Production combines modern with traditional as the olives are pressed at the local traditional olive mill
- Silver Bird Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil was traditionally blended with other European olive oils to improve their quality. Now the Greek farmers share it as a product of its own.
- LAI Organic Olive Oil is the sole olive oil from this family grove near Lavrio but that’s all it’s taken for them to win multiple awards
A number of these companies also produce balsamic vinegar and natural cosmetics like soap, body oils and St John’s Wort oil.
How to Select Top Quality Olive Oil
I’ve heard reports about how a high percentage of olive oil on supermarket shelves across the world is actually rancid. Not ideal for human consumption! So what are the signs of a good quality oil? And how can you avoid choosing a rancid product when shopping?
Choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil production varies depending on the type of olive oil that’s being produced. The result is that there’s a noticeable difference in the flavor profiles. That’s a fancy way of saying they taste really different.
For plain olive oil, the olives are processed using chemicals or high temperatures to extract the oil. That leaves a very refined product that’s been stripped of the best parts. Sometimes the olive oil is mixed with other types of oil too. The end result is quite a bland product.
Extra virgin olive oil is generally cold pressed and unrefined so it keeps all of the health benefits. For an oil to be labelled EVOO it has to meet certain industry standards so you know its high quality. Double-check that the one you’re buying is also cold-pressed though as it’s not absolutely guaranteed. (Where the oil is extracted mechanically at low temperature.)
Look for organic labelling too if that’s important to you.
Look for Low Acidity Levels
A low acidity level reflects both good quality olives and production process. For EVOO, 0.8% is considered average (other olive oil will be higher.) 0.5% is classed as good while the highest quality oil will be 0.3%.
Acidity is apparently one indicator though and you can’t automatically assume that 0.3% acidity means the perfect oil. (Although I think it goes a long way to identifying the best extra virgin oil to choose.)
Look for Single Origin Olives
Another thing to look out for is single-origin olives. That doesn’t necessarily mean a monovarietal oil, i.e ones that are made with only a single variety of olive.
You want olives that all came from the same estate even if the olive varieties in the product are mixed. That way, it’s more likely the olives are the same age and less likely that some have been sitting around for a long time before production.
Check the Best Before Date
There should be a best before date so check there’s plenty of time left on it. Thanks to modern technology oil in unsealed bottles can be stable for a good while. But once you open it, it’s best used within a month. So don’t buy a bigger bottle than you can use.
Find a Reputable Producer
Many product winners at olive oil awards come from a Greek family business. Family farms or artisan producers creating small quantities of oils are often best. The olive oil quality can be much higher than large producers and you know where the olives have come from.
That’s not to say that bigger-scale producers don’t produce quality oil. As you’ll see below, large organisations also grace the world sage for best EVOOS of the year. But it’s good to understand their processes. Where organisations have a vertical process and can control quality at all stages they’re much more likely to be able to produce an excellent quality product.
Pick the Right Kind of Bottle
Oil quality can be affected by light and temperature. As a rule, you want to pick a bottle of olive oil that’s made from either dark-coloured or frosted glass or stainless steel. Avoid plastic where the components can lech into the oil, too.
Discover All the Best Olive Oil in Greece
For olive oil sampling experiences on your next trip to Greece, check Airbnb Experiences or ask locally for recommendations.
For other things to do see: