Olive Tree Covered Lesvos
According to various archaeological finds, such as a Bronze Age olive mill dating back to 2800 BC, olive trees have been on the island since the 3rd century BC. Along with its derivative, soap, olive oil has always played an important role in the economy of Lesvos. In essence, Lesvos is a large olive forest composed of 9 million olive trees in innumerable olive groves, many growing on terraces (or “setia,” as the locals call them).
The olive groves start by the sea and end where pine trees begin to grow, at about 600 meters altitude. Today, the island produces around 15-20,000 metric tons of olive oil each year. Lesvos olive oil bears the appellation “PGI Lesvos,” its Protected Geographical Indication. At the beginning of the last century, the appearance of the plant lice phylloxera, which completely destroyed viticulture, played an important role in the overall prevalence of olive cultivation on the island: all the vineyards were gradually replaced by olive groves.
The island’s volcanic rock significantly contributes to the organoleptic characteristics of the olive oil of Lesvos. The exceptional microclimate, plentiful sunshine and sea breeze also help to create optimal conditions for the production of high quality olive oil. The olive groves of Lesvos include two main varieties of medium-sized olives: Kolovi and Adramytini. The Kolovi variety is also known as Mytilinia or Valanolia (because of the shape of the fruit, which resembles an acorn, or “velanidi” in Greek).
The Adramytini or Aivaliotiki variety comes from the Ayvalık (Aivali, in Greek) region on the coast of Asia Minor. The Kolovi variety accounts for 80% of the island’s olive cultivation and is mainly found in the southern and southwestern parts of the island as a monoculture. The Adramytini variety (about 15% of the total) is mainly located in the Mytilene area and in the northern and northeastern parts of the island, overlooking the Adramytino Bay. Small amounts of two other varieties are also scattered around the island: Throumba or Thasitiki, and Agrielia.
Why in Lesvos?
Lesvos has a significant history of olive cultivation.
After Crete and Peloponnese, Lesvos is Greece's most important olive growing area, accounting for 20% of the country's total production. Lesvos has a significant history of olive cultivation. Made from the less-known locally grown varieties of Kolovi and Adramytini, its olive oil has special organoleptic characteristics. The third largest island in Greece, Lesvos is located across from Turkey in the northeastern part of the Aegean Sea, at the inlet of the Adramytino Bay. Its capital is Mytilene.
The Nobel laureate poet Ulysses Elytis, called Lesvos a "plane tree leaf in the middle of the sea" because of the island’s shape and beauty. It is an unspoiled, authentic place, ideal for hosting the Athena International Competition Jury.
The natural beauties of Lesvos are famous: the bays of Geras and Kalloni, the island’s wetlands, and the petrified forest are part of the Natura 2000 network. The island also belongs to the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network. A cultural center from ancient times to the present, Lesvos rightly boasts of its 14 museums, three of them dedicated to olives and olive oil, while the island's numerous beautiful mansions bear witness to its rich social life. A place of agricultural production, it is also known for its ouzo and sardines from Kalloni, cheeses and herbs.
Lesvos is called the "garden of the Aegean" and "the island with the bays of olive groves" because of its rich flora, including olive trees, which cover a quarter of its total area. The vibrant ecosystem of Lesvos, its climate, and its unique landforms and geology contribute to the creation of a distinctive extra virgin olive oil with its own special flavor.
The Kolovi and Adramytini
The olive oil of Lesvos is mainly produced from the indigenous Kolovi olive variety, which is not grown anywhere else in Greece.
Kolovi olive oil initially stands out for its vivid golden color and delicate texture, differing from the usual viscous green olive oils.
The color difference is due to a low chlorophyll content and high levels of carotenoids, while the finer texture derives from the higher level of unsaturated fatty acids, which also helps maintain the quality characteristics of the olive oil for a long time. In terms of flavor, Lesvos's olive oil is notable for its intense fruitiness in the nose and mouth, which comes with a perfect balance of flavor, with the distinctive presence of bitterness and a pronounced taste of spiciness. However, what makes it particularly unique is the overall complexity of its aromas, with the main characteristic being the aromas of green tomato and tomato leaves, artichoke and eucalyptus, framed by fresh aromatic herbs, new grass and green fruits. In the aftertaste, which is long lasting, the sense of tomato prevails.
The Adramytini variety, in turn, enriches the olive oil of Lesvos overall by giving the blends extra exotic fruit and floral notes. More intensely distinct in flavor, it adds elegance and grace.