- Who is the world champion in olive oil? Οnly evidence.

The world champion in olive oil

First issue in olive oil championship is the matter of quality.  

Extra Virgin olive oil accounts for less than 10% of oil in many producing countries; the percentage is far higher in the Mediterranean countries (Greece is known for its small olive groves, high quality olive oil, high percentage of production of extra virgin olive oil as much as 80% of olive oil produced is extra virgin, for Italy it is 45 percent and in Spain it accounts 30 percent). It is important to note that 80% of the Greek olive oil is extra virgin, which is the top-ranked classification category in the world. This makes Greece the world’s largest producer of extra virgin olive oil. Greek extra virgin olive oil’s superior quality is appreciated by the international trade, which is the reason why 150-200 thousand tons of Greek best olive oil are exported to Italy and Spain and sold at a premium price (but under a disguised origin), in comparison to olive oils of other origins.

Quality Score:

Greece:  3 points
Italy:      2 points
Spain:    1 point

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Second issue is the matter of health. 


Picual is the most important variety (60-80% of the oil production in Spain). It is concentrated in Jaen Andalusia and neighboring provinces. The olive is medium to large in size, with an average of 3.2 grams. The oil yield is high, reaching about 27%. The oils from Picual are high in polyphenols and have good stability. Maturation is between the beginning of November and mid-December but the fruit should be processed as soon as possible. It produces nice aromatic fruity oil with medium bitterness when early harvested but when harvested late in the season the oil has lower quality. The fruits are susceptible to olive fly (Dacus oleae) and slightly sensitive to leaf spot (Cycloconium oleaginum).

Frantoio is the most predominant oil cultivar in Italy, (45-60% of the oil production in Italy) especially in Tuscany and Umbria. It has a small to medium size fruit of 2-2.5 grams. The oil yield is between 23-26% and maturation is medium to late from middle of October until late December. The oil has medium to high polyphenol content, has very good aromatic qualities and is strongly pungent. The tree is sensitive to peacock eye leaf and the fruit to olive fly infection. The oil is considered to have a very high quality.

In Greece two thirds of the planted trees are Koroneiki variety and their olives are used only for oil production (they are too small to be consumed as table olives). On the island of Crete or Peloponesus, the main production areas, oil from Koroneiki variety is up to 85%. Fruit ripens early and is very small averaging only 1 gram (sometimes less than 1 gram). The oil yield is high between 20-27%.  The chemical characteristics of Koroneiki oil are excellent. 
This variety has a very high polyphenols contents and is very stable, giving it an excellent shelf life. It has a very strong flavor of freshness, green herbs and apples. When collected early in the season, excellent quality premium oil is obtained. Because of the small fruit size, mechanical harvesting could be difficult. This cultivar is resistant to water stress and wind, but sensitive to olive fly. Its tolerance to cold is low.

Summarized Data
country   cultivar       fruit size  oil yield    polyphenols  stability
Spain   Picual       medium  20-27%  high-very high  good
Italy   Frantoio small-medium   23-26%  medium-high  medium
Greece      Koroneiki very small  20-27%  very high           very stable

* The higher content of polyphenols, the higher the quality of the oil and better stability (polyphenols have antioxidant activity).
* The stability of the product or its shelf life depends not only on the polyphenols content but also on the fatty acids proportions, tocopherols, phytosterols, squalene and volatile compounds.

Health Score:

Greece:  3 points
Spain:    2 points
Italy:      1 point

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Third issue is the matter of taste. 

(more prevalent variety by country)

Taste olive oil with bread

Picual - Spain 
Like many Spanish olive oils, the Picual has a medium body, smooth texture, and sweet, buttery taste, but it finishes with a peppery kick that gives it an extra layer of flavor. It is an excellent choice for use as an everyday olive oil. As an all-purpose oil, the Picual works beautifully in sauces and salads, and is a delicious counterpart to the more flavorful balsamic vinegars. For an appetizer, sprinkle it with assorted grated cheeses and spices and use it as a dipper for your favorite crusty bread. When warmed, the Picual gives off the sweet aroma of ripe tomatoes.

Frantoio - Italy
Frantoio is outstanding when used to make basil or coriander pesto. It carries the strong flavour to a different level and provides the perfect mouthfeel accompaniment for these richly satisfying condiments. Frantoio olive oil contains notes of grass, herbs, and pepper, with a moderate amount of bitterness on the finish.

Koroneiki - Greece
Is a small olive with high oil content.  It has a fabulous aroma and taste profile. Have an aroma comprised of dried or fresh green herbs with hints of apple, tomato, dried mint and honey.  On the palate, the taste is fruity with hints of dried herbs followed by a slight chicory or radicchio bitterness, and a peppery or ‘radish heat’ and slight nuttiness at the finish. 

(the taste is a subjective matter
Taste Score:

Spain:    3 points
Italy:      3 points
Greece:  3 points

and the winner is ...

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