The Competition

ATHENA International Olive Oil Competition

The ATHENA 2023 competition results are now available.
The Awards Ceremony will take place in Athens, June 10 at 18:30, at the Zappeion Megaron Exhibition Hall.

Why in Kavala?

The cultivation of olive trees in the region of Kavala has always existed.

The town, which is also the capital of the prefectural division of the same name, is located in northern Greece and belongs administratively to the region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace. Marked by the historic fortress that dominates its summit, it is built as an amphitheatre along the sea and has always been an important crossroads between the West and the East, uniting in various ways different peoples, religions and cultures.

References in the Odyssey attest to the cultivation of the olive tree since the Homeric years. One of the most striking discoveries of the use of the olive for the production of olive oil about two millennia ago, is a farm discovered in the village of Argilos (municipality of Pangaio), near the archaeological site of Amphipolis, where a complete olive press was found, with equipment and mechanisms (stone vat - trapetum, clay plinths with oil pits, etc.) Archaeologists date this olive press to the 1st century AD, while its historical importance is such that a faithful copy of it was built and is on display in the Olive Museum in Sparta. Furthermore, Athenaeus of Naucratis, a Greek scholar and grammarian, but also a botanist, gastronome and dietician (late 2nd - early 3rd century AD), whose main work is “The Deipnosophists”, which can be translated as “the banquet of the sophists” or “the banquet of the scholars”, mentioned this area as being important for the cultivation of olives, vines and figs.

Why here?
Why here?

However, over the centuries, the cultivation of the olive tree in the Kavala region faded away due to disasters, wars or simply because of urbanization. Gradually, the region concentrated on more economically profitable crops, such as cereals and tobacco. Its inhabitants thus made more efficient use of the huge fertile zone surrounding the city. In fact, it had already been described by the Greek historian Plutarch as “a beautiful and fine country” and by the Greek geographer and historian Strabo as “excellent and fruitful” (both in the 1st century AD).

On the other hand, thanks to its port, Kavala also became a hub for goods to and from all countries to the north. As a result, the region became an important commercial transit center for all Mediterranean countries. Thus, in the 18th and 19th centuries, Kavala was one of the largest international financial centers in the wider region. Its products included gold from its own mines and tobacco, which has played an important part in the city’s history, both in terms of production and processing and trade. Today, a number of magnificent architectural examples ―old tobacco factories and warehouses― still dominate the city, bearing witness to its historical relationship with tobacco. Most of them are used as museums and cultural and educational centers.

The olive of Kavala

The olive grove of the Kavala region, with two million olive trees and 3,000 hectares of olive trees, covers three areas, the main ones being the municipality of Pangaio, the municipality of the island of Thassos and, to a smaller extent, the municipalities of Nestos and Kavala itself.

With a rich olive-growing history, the municipality of Pangaio has made a strong comeback to olive cultivation in the last 15 years, with impressive results. It is considered the most important emerging olive-growing region in Greece, with olive oil of excellent quality. Its olive grove, as is the case with the whole region’s olive plantations, starts at the seaside and extends along the slopes of Mount Pangaio, up to 550 metres. It is known for its perfect soil composition and unique terroir that includes a Mediterranean climate with continental influences; the beneficial sea winds invariably prevail over the cold northern winds and also moderate the summer heat. In other words, perfect conditions for the cultivation of the olive tree and its protection against diseases.

Thassos, on the other hand, is one of those places that have the chance to be uniquely identified with the olive tree. The local olive varietal is named after this small and verdant island, so it is called “Thassos” or “Dopia Thassou” or “Thassitiki” or “Throumba Thassou” and is monocultured throughout the island, offering both table olives and olives for olive oil production.

Why here?
Why here?

Of all the varietals grown in the wider region of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace, the most commonly used is the Chalkidiki, followed by Thassos and Megaritiki (from southern Greece) which covers 10% of the area. Various other varietals are also cultivated to a much lesser extent. The Chalkidiki varietal has had a stellar career as a table olive, exported all over the world, from the city of Kavala.

In recent years, however, the Chalkidiki has also paved the way for the production of olive oil, due to its strong taste profile and important health properties. With intense fruitiness, strong spiciness and a balanced presence of bitterness, its olive oils have a remarkable complexity: taste characteristics of green almond, olive leaves, fig, tomato and fresh herbs are apparent.

The olive oils of the Thassos varietal are distinguished by their smoothness and balance, with a moderate, almost sweet intensity in the mouth, with a taste of bitter spices and aromas of red apple, chamomile, dried flowers and red pepper.

Finally, the Megaritiki varietal is known for its smooth, aromatic and harmonious olive oils, with flavors and aromas reminiscent of forest fruits, green leaves and hazelnut.

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