Olive trees grow everywhere in Greece. Go to the smallest inhabited village or island and there will definitely be an olive tree there waiting for you. The olive tree and olive oil is part of Greek culture, from very ancient times to this day. Half of the Greek homes produce their own olive oil from olive trees left behind in their ancestral hometowns and need never buy olive oil. But, despite this infinite exposure to olives and olive oil, just recently do we have producers who are making excellent olive oils, are farming their olive trees with greater care, are taking greater care with transport and pressing, and are looking to make premium products. It is one thing making the oil for your home and it is a totally different thing to adhere to specific rules and regulations and to make products that can be put on the market with particular specifications.
Greece cultivates over 100 indigenous varieties. Some are used mainly for olive oil production, others mainly for table olives.
Olive oil is characterised as:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is an olive oil which is of exceptional quality both in terms of its chemical and taste (organoleptic) characteristics.
Virgin Olive Oil: This is an olive oil which is of very good quality both in terms of its chemical and taste characteristics.
Pure or Refined Olive Oil: A lower quality olive oil that consists of faulty olive oils that have been ‘cleared’ of their faults through chemical processes and are sometimes blended with some better olive oil to give them better taste characteristics.
Olive-pomace oil: An inferior oil made from the pits and leftovers. Used for lighting and soap.
Light Olive Oil: Light refers only to flavour and not caloric value. A blend of vegetable oils that may contain a small percentage of olive oil.
Main varieties used for making olive oil:
Koroneiki: Most widely planted. Gives very good olive oils that can be intense in their characteristics but generally quite balanced.
Tsounati: Very good olive oils, of medium intensity, balanced.
Adramytini: Very good olive oils, interesting, complex, medium intensity, balanced.
Valanolia: Very good olive oils, quite aromatic, balanced.
Lianolia Kerkyras: If treated properly gives excellent oil. Intense in its characteristics.
Agouromanako: Very good olive oils, buttery, ‘sweet’, soft but balanced.
Megaritiki: Good olive oils that are quite fruity, of medium intensity, balanced.