The Competition

ATHENA International Olive Oil Competition

Why in Sparta?

Because the olive tree spreads across the length and breadth of Laconia, with Sparta at its center, occupying 65% of the region's arable land.

Sparta is the capital of the Laconia regional unit, a blessed land rich in natural beauty, with a long, glorious history and high culture, which includes gastronomy. A multitude of cities, villages, traditional settlements, fortified cities, and other attractions complement its unparalleled beauty. The olive tree marks almost everywhere in the area, the cultivation of which has always been present. This, in fact, is depicted in the Museum of Olive and Olive Oil of the Cultural Foundation of the Piraeus Bank, which is rightly hosted by Sparta, testifying to the importance of this crop in the lives and traditions of the people of the region. Because the olive was and remains a factor of economic growth and a source of food for the inhabitants of Laconia, contributing even to the famous strength of the Lacedaemonian warriors, that is, the warriors of ancient Sparta.

In other words... "this is Sparta", as was said in the successful movie "300", which concerned the army of the king of Sparta Leonidas, who led the legendary battle of Thermopylae (430 BC), with the opponent the numerous Persians of Xerxes. A battle that, with reference to this army, a creation of one of the two most powerful city-states of Ancient Greece, Sparta (the other was Athens), symbolizes globally and historically courage, discipline, and, of course, self-sacrifice. It is no coincidence, after all, that the symbol of the city and the entire Laconia is the bronze statue of Leonidas in the square of the municipal stadium of modern Sparta, one of the cities in Greece with the best layout.

Why here?
Why here?
More specifically, Sparta is located in the center of the southern part of the Peloponnese, in the fertile valley of the Eurotas River. Framed by the mountain ranges of Taygetos and Parnonas, it is one of the oldest and most historic cities in Greece, with a history that dates back at least to the 6 th millennium BC, as confirmed by archaeological finds.

It is also well- known through Homer's epic Iliad, starring King Menelaus, his wife Helen the Fair, and, of course, the abduction of her by Paris, which is the romantic version for the pretext of the Trojan War, one of the greatest of antiquity!

From then on and earlier within the Mycenaean era, Sparta played a central to catalytic role in the Peloponnese, something that continued in the following historical periods, the Roman, the Byzantine, and the Ottoman. In the first two, moreover, (5th - 6th century) the wider Laconia flourished economically and culturally with the founding of the fortified cities, with the most important centers being Mystra, Monemvasia and Areopoli.

In the latter, moreover, the start of the revolution was declared, which later led to the modern Greek state.

The olive of Laconia

Olive trees are a historic crop for Laconia, which remains a leading player for the region and decisive for olive production throughout Greece.

The Lakonian olive grove and its cultivation extend throughout the geographical length and breadth of the ecological zone of Laconia, starting from the sea and reaching up to 700 meters above sea level, on the slopes of Parnonas and Taygetos, that is, the mountain ranges that frame Sparta. It covers 65% of the arable land in the region (followed by citrus fruits, with an emphasis on oranges and then other crops). Thus, Laconia becomes one of the most important olive-producing regions in Greece. A place where olive cultivation plays a leading role in the agricultural economy and social life of the inhabitants from the Mycenaean era to the present day, and even continuously.

As the data show, today about 14 million olive trees are cultivated in Laconia, compared to 10,936,000 in 2013, with many young people of age taking up their exploitation. In other words, in recent years, olive cultivation has been on an upward trend, with the only, perhaps, limiting factor being the steep slopes in the mountainous zones, as their exploitation requires the presence of water and cultivation in terraces.

Regarding the varieties, the protagonists are the Koroneiki and the Athinoli (or Tsounta) followed by the Koutouleli (or Patrinia). On a smaller scale, you can find various local bvarieties, such as Myrtolia, Smertolia, Mani (local Gythion), Antholia, Asprolia and Tragolia, which are usually used in a blend with Koroneiki or Antholia. The presence of the Kalamon variety is also important, with production for table use (about 22,000 tons annually) and not for olive oil production.
Why here?
Why here?
The basic characteristic of the region is the Mediterranean climate, with mild rainfall and abundant sunshine. However, factors such as the large geographical area, the extensive coastline, and the varied topography, as shaped by the Taygetos and Parnonas mountain ranges and the Eurotas River, create a multitude of mesoclimates. Most of them are positive for the quality characteristics of all agricultural products, launching their reputation in international markets.

It is no coincidence, after all, that Laconia is the only regional unit in Greece where olive oil from three regions has been protected by the European Commission and is able to bear the its place of origin’s names on the label: PDO Krokees Lakonias, PDO Phoinix Lakonias and PDO Petrina Lakonias. At the same time, all of the production of Lakonian olive oil is under the PGI Lakonia indication.

The annual production of Lakonian olive oil ranges from 30,000 to 35,000 tons and comes mainly from the 57 active modern olive mills in the area, with 85-90% of this olive oil being classified as extra virgin. The main organoleptic characteristic of Lakonian olive oil is its strong fruity presence and its good harmony with the bitter and spicy. However, what distinguishes it is the complexity of its aromas and its gustatory finesse. Due to this profile and its nutritional components, it enjoys particular fame in the market. In fact, an informal indicator of this fame and, of course, of its quality is that the first auctions of Greek olive oil in each new harvest period take place in the village of Agioi Apostoloi in Laconia and serve as an indicator of the selling prices of Greek olive oil in the international markets. In addition, 17 olive growers' organizations and 13 export companies are active in the area.
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Olive Oil

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