2016 was the first year an International Olive Oil Competition was organized in Greece. The competition rightfully earned the title "international" in its first edition, since 1/3 of the samples and 2/3 of the judges came from abroad. The 1st Athena International Olive Oil Competition (ATHENAIOOC) was held in Athens on March 21-22, 2016. Its name comes from the goddess Athena. According to Greek mythology, Athena bestowed the olive tree on humankind, and then the city was named in her honor. (Athens is called “Athena” in Greek.)
For the first edition of the ATHENAIOOC, the members of the jury tasted and evaluated the competing olive oils from a room with a view of the sacred rock of the Acropolis. They visited the Acropolis Museum and other attractions as well as dining at some of the city's emblematic restaurants to gain a complete view of Greek cuisine, in which olive oil is naturally a major protagonist. Everyone was impressed by the competition’s organization and by the level of olive oil samples they tasted.
The results of the Athena International Olive Oil Competition and the overall performance of Greek olive oil in this contest were comparable to those of the already well-established international competitions in the rest of the world. Thus, the validity of the ATHENAIOOC was established, and its organizers’ decision to start such an independent international olive oil competition in Greece was justified from the beginning, with its additional goal of supporting Greek olive oil in the international market.
256 olive oil samples from 10 countries (Greece, Spain, Italy, Tunisia, Jordan, Argentina, France, Portugal, Israel and Slovenia) participated in the competition, and judges from 12 countries made up the 19-member jury.
The judges awarded a total of 118 medals. Specifically: 35 Bronze, 33 Silver, 43 Gold and 7 Double Gold. The Best of Show award went to “TreFórt” olive oil, produced by Paolo Bonomelli from Veneto, Italy. The best Greek olive oil came from Lesvos: “Olvia Organic” by the Tzortzis family, made from the Adramytini (80%) and Kolovi (20%) olive varieties.
Greece participated in the ATHENAIOOC by entering 187 olive oil samples (73% of the total), capturing a total of 62 medals (52.5% of the total medals) as follows: 12 Gold, 21 Silver and 29 Bronze. Spain took home 35 medals (29.5%), four of which were Double Golds, Italy won 10 medals (8.5%), three of them Double Golds, Portugal claimed 4, Israel earned 3, France won 2, and Slovenia and Tunisia each earned 1.
The geographical distribution of Greek awards was approximately equal, if we take into account the number of samples sent by each region. Regarding olive varieties, the Koroneiki variety dominated, with 105 Greek entries (77% of the monovarietal Greek samples and 59% of all the Greek samples, whether single variety or blended). However, the competition proved the richness of both domestic and international olive oil production beyond a doubt, since olive oils made from 70 different olive varieties, 40 foreign and 30 Greek, entered the competition!
The 1st Athena International Olive Oil Competition proved itself a Greek pioneer once again as it concluded with a ceremony in Athens on May 16, 2016 to award medals and special prizes to the award-winning Greek and foreign olive oil producers. This was preceded by a public tasting presentation of 118 award-winning olive oils. Starting in the morning, this tasting brought together dozens of professionals from the marketing, catering and communication fields in the hotel banquet hall in Syntagma Square. Here they tasted and compared some of the best olive oils from Greece and from many other countries that were awarded at the first Athena competition. It was a unique tasting event, the first of its kind in Greece. The awards ceremony that followed it was attended by many representatives of organizations and companies in Greece, as well as several award-winning olive oil producers from abroad, who came to Greece specifically to receive their distinctions from the 1st Athena competition. Among them were some of the world's top olive growers.