As we reach the end of the olive harvest in Greece, I wanted to write a few words about the quality of Greek extra virgin olive oil and the special characteristics of the brand we carry, Phileos of Sparta. I hope many Anthos friends will find this topic interesting.
There is no doubt that olive oil is the keystone of the Mediterranean Diet, confirmed by experts as a way of eating that promotes health and eases the impact of aging. Particularly in Greece, olive oil is the absolute basis of our cuisine and one of the reasons why Greek food tastes so good! We use copious amounts of 'liquid gold', particularly in olive oil producing regions.
One such region is the South Eastern Peloponnese, where Elika, the beautiful village of my wife Ellie, is located. Elika lies in the municipality of Monemvassia, about 50 miles from Sparta. It is a destination we visit every year since 2000 (the year I met Ellie).
Ellie at one of our favorite tavernas at Foutia village. Behind her the spectacular view of the Rock of Monemvasia.
Whenever you order a Greek salad at a taverna in Elika, the golden green olive oil dousing the fresh vegetables is the star of the dish. There's probably more olive oil in the plate than vegetables! A special post/guide dedicated to Elika will be coming soon, as it is one of our favorite summer destinations and definitely a location worth visiting for a truly authentic taste of Greece in combination with beautiful and pristine sandy beaches.
Back to the olive oil! It is worth noting that Greece exhibits the highest per capita consumption of olive oil globally. The average Greek consumes around 20lt per year, followed by Spaniards (13 lt) and Italians at around 11 lt. Despite its relatively small size, Greece is the third largest olive-oil producing country in the world after Spain and Italy. Around 80% of the olive oil produced in Greece is extra virgin olive oil (the highest % among top producers), which is considered the highest quality from an organoleptic point of view and the most beneficial.
Greek EVOO is famous for its purity and high nutritional value. It has desirable flavor characteristics and scores very high in chemical analysis tests measuring EVOO quality. This is primarily because Greek EVOO varieties tend to be among the highest in polyphenol content, a fact highly associated with fruitier, sharp and robust flavor.
Due to its high-quality characteristics, Greek olive oil is in high demand by foreign bottlers for blending with other olive oils to raise the overall quality and improve the flavor of their final product. Most Greek olive oil production is consumed domestically and the remainder is exported to major bottlers in Italy for blending with olive oils from various sources.
Over the last decades there have been significant efforts by Greek producers for the promotion and export of Greek EVOOs and their high quality is recognized now widely by the numerous quality awards granted to Greek bottles in the most prestigious olive oil competitions.
A multi award winning EVOO and one of the best ambassadors of the finest Greek EVOO qualities is our imported brand Phileos of Sparta, produced by Kasell S.A. just a few miles away from my wife's village, Elika. Its nine sophisticated and upgraded olive oil mills are all located at about 10 km from their standardization facility in Sykea, allowing Kasell to control and safeguard the quality of the final product throughout all stages of its production process.
Kasell's modern standardization facility in Sykea, Laconia in the municipality of Monemvasia. [Photo Credit KASELL SA]
What makes Phileos of Sparta special?
First, it's the olive varieties utilized in its production: Phileos of Sparta is the product of hand-picked Laconian olives of the famous varieties Koroneiki (70% – 80%) and Athinolia (20% – 30%).
- Koroneiki: The variety is also known as Psilolia, Kritikia, Ladolia, Koroni, Vatsiki and Lianolia. The variety has many names due to its high spread around our country and its various sizes. The maturation of this variety begins early in November and ends late in December and its harvest may begin after the first ten days of January. The produced olive oil is the finest among all varieties with excellent intense aroma and characteristic flavor.
- Athinolia: This is a quite rare, ancient Greek variety, nowadays systematically cultivated only in the Municipality of Monemvasia, where Phileos come from. Its common name is Mastoidis (Mastoid). It is famous for its intense aromatic and fruity scent it adds to the olive oil produced by its extraction. It matures and is harvested quite early, around the end of November - beginning of December. Its early harvest reduces the attacks by mycological diseases that come with the first autumn rainfalls and deteriorate the olives’ quality. This variety produces a very healthy fruit and by extension olive oil of low acidity, strong aroma and excellent quality.
In Phileos of Sparta, these two varieties are wonderfully mixed and their final product combines the very best characteristics of both; it is golden green oil with particularly low acidity, velvety taste and intense aroma, with a beautiful balance between bitter and spicy flavors.
In more detail, Phileos presents the following quality characteristics that are very desirable in EVOO classification.
- Fruity: the flavor that comes from the crushing of fresh and unripe olive fruit – a characteristic of the early harvest. The fresher the fruit, the more intense this aroma is.
- Spicy and Bitter: a positive feature in extra virgin olive oils; it's felt with a slight burn in the throat that lasts for a few seconds.
- Very rich in Polyphenols: natural antioxidants contained in extra virgin olive oil. Polyphenols are not only a shield of protection for the product itself against oxidization, but also for the consumer. The average EVOO has a quantity of 100-250mg/kg of polyphenols. Phileos normally scores around 800 -1000mg/kg of total polyphenols, according to the laboratory analyses that take place after each harvest. In periods of unstable weather conditions in the region, the figure may drop to around 500 mg/kg which is still considered very high for market standards.
- Guaranteed acidity at bottling below 0.4% (the requirement for an EVOO is 0.8%)
- Multiple Certifications: AGRO 2.1-2.2, Non GMO project verified, Certified Kosher, ISO 22000, IFS, Agrocert, PGI and Organic.
- PGI (Protected Geographical Indication):
Phileos is produced exclusively in the olive groves of Molaoi, Asopos, Monemvassia in controlled and certified fields regarding their methods of fertilizing and cultivation in order to constitute a Protected Geographical Indication of Laconia (PGI of LACONIA). This means that the olive oil production meets specific criteria and standards of quality such as:
– Olive varieties: Koroneiki & Athinolia
– Olives’ harvest and storage in sackcloth
– Olive oil extraction within 48 hours after harvest
– Organoleptic assessment and laboratory analysis
The fact that the olives that produce Phileos come exclusively from one specific region and are processed under the same high quality harvesting and production standards means that the flavor of Phileos and its quality remain consistent and high all year.
Although olive oil is a highly regulated food product, it's important to know where your EVOO is coming from. Another fact to keep in mind is that many of the mainstream EVOO's you will find in big stores are usually blends of various olive oils. If you are looking for the best quality our recommendation is to select certified over non certified EVOO's. To achieve a PGI / PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), or Organic certification it means that the manufacturer strives for the end product - its cultivation, origin and processing - to conform to specific, strict and consistent quality standards.
Finally, Phileos is considered already as one of the best olive oils in the world from the largest and most prestigious olive oil competition, the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, where it has been awarded the Silver Award in 2020 and the Gold Award in 2017.
Clearly, olive oil is one of our passions here at Anthos and we decided to carry Phileos after studying numerous great Greek EVOO brands. Phileos was the winner because of its excellent quality, numerous certifications and the integrity of its producers. We are extremely happy that our friends and customers seem to agree and we hope we can contribute to the increase of olive oil consumption in the States - even one tiny bit!