Introduction to olive oil production in Greece

Greece is one of the world’s leading olive oil producing countries, with a long tradition of olive cultivation dating back to ancient times. The country’s Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers and mild winters, is ideal for growing olives. Greek olive oils are known for their high quality and distinctive flavor, which is a result of the country’s diverse soil and micro climate.

Types of Greek olive oils

There are many different types of olive oil produced in Greece, including extra virgin, virgin and pure olive oil.

Extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality, made from pure cold-pressed olives, without chemical processing. It has a fruity taste and an intense, spicy aroma.

Virgin olive oil is also made from cold-pressed olives, but may have slightly more acidity and less intense flavor than extra virgin olive oil.

Olive oil or pure olive oil is made from virgin and refined olive oil.

And there is also agourelaio or extra virgin olive oil (Premium) which is the oil of the first, unripe fruit of the harvest. Its characteristic feature is the rich, fruity and bitter taste.

Regional variations of Greek olive oil

Greece is home to many different olive varieties and the flavor and characteristics of the oil produced may vary depending on the region from which it comes. Some of the most well-known regions for producing high quality olive oil include Crete, Peloponnese and Lesvos.

Olive oils from these regions are known for their unique flavors and aromas, which are influenced by factors such as the climate, soil and production methods of the region.

Traditional olive oil production methods in Greece

Many Greek olive oil producers still use traditional methods to produce their oil, including hand-picking of olives and using stone mills to extract the oil. These traditional methods are labor intensive, but are considered to produce a higher quality oil with a more complex flavor profile.

In recent years, there has been a trend towards more sustainable and environmentally-friendly production methods, such as using mechanical methods to pick the olives and implementing water and energy-saving technologies in the production process.

olive trees

The benefits of Greek olive oil

Olive oil is an essential part of the Mediterranean diet, which has been linked to numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer. Greek olive oil, in particular, is rich in monounsaturated fats, antioxidants and other nutrients that are good for overall health. Some studies have also shown that olive oil can help with weight management, as it can make you feel full and satisfied, leading to a reduction in calorie intake.

How to choose and store Greek olive oil

When buying Greek olive oil, it is important to look for bottles labeled “extra virgin” or “virgin” as these are the highest quality grades. It’s also a good idea to check the expiration date and make sure the oil is stored in a cool, dark place, as light and heat can degrade the quality of the oil. Some experts suggest choosing olive oil in dark-coloured bottles as this material can help protect the oil from light.

Greek olive oil is a versatile and healthy ingredient that can add flavor and nutritional value to a variety of dishes. By choosing high-quality, properly stored olive oils and using them in the right applications, you can get the most out of this delicious and nutritious product.

green olives olive oil bottle close up

How to use Greek olive oil

Greek olive oil can be used in a variety of dishes, including salads, marinades, sauces and as a finishing oil for grilled or roasted meats and vegetables. It is recommended to use a high quality extra virgin olive oil for dishes that will be served raw, such as salads, as it will have a more intense flavor.

However, extra virgin olive oil is also suitable for cooking, as it is superior in monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, it is a natural product and has a lower degree of spoilage and toxicity in high temperatures. As an alternative we could use virgin olive oil, even for frying.

Greek olive oil and the economy

Olive oil production is an important contributor to the Greek economy, with the country exporting olive oil to markets around the world. Apart from its economic value, olive oil production is also of cultural importance in Greece, with many small-scale producers passing on the tradition of olive oil production from generation to generation.

There are also initiatives to promote and support small-scale and sustainable olive oil production, such as the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) labels, which guarantee that the olive oil is produced in a specific region using traditional methods.

Greek olive oil and tourism

Olive oil production is an integral part of the culture and history of Greece and as such, it has become a popular attraction for tourists visiting the country. Many olive oil producers offer guided tours of their facilities, allowing visitors to learn about the production process and taste the different types of olive oil produced.

There are also olive oil-themed gastronomic tours available, where visitors can learn about the different ways to use olive oil in traditional Greek dishes and participate in cooking classes. Visiting an olive oil producer or participating in an olive oil themed  tour can be a unique and educational way to learn more about this important aspect of Greek culture and cuisine.