- Greek agriculturist Giorgos Paraskevopoulos tastes olive oil like the French taste wine: all the senses must be engaged. “Selecting a good-quality olive oil is a lot like picking a fine bottle of wine – it must have excellent aroma, taste and appearance,” he...
Greek agriculturist Giorgos Paraskevopoulos tastes olive oil like the French taste wine: all the senses must be engaged. “Selecting a good-quality olive oil is a lot like picking a fine bottle of wine – it must have excellent aroma, taste and appearance,” he said in the southern resort of Costa Navarino, where the annual olive oil harvest is in full-swing.
The resort near the city of Kalamata, which lends its name to a meaty olive variety popular the world over, is at the centre of a new push by Greece to revamp its olive oil industry during the economic crisis. Thousands of acres are being planted, and new mills are being built. Producers are investing in fancy packaging and marketing to lift the profile of Greek olive oil.
Greece was the largest producer of olive oil in the ancient world. In recent decades, the trade has become almost solely dependent on exports to Italy, which buys some 60 per cent of Greece’s annual olive harvest. Consulting firm McKinsey & Company said in a report that Italian companies were making a 50 percent premium on the price of the olive oil they produce and sell using Greek olives.
“Greece is the world’s third-largest producer of olive oil and in the past five years we have seen a new trend in the overall rise of olive oil exports – mainly by olive oil producers who are now bottling and branding the product as their own,” says Grigoris Antoniadis, president of the Hellenic Olive Oil Packers Association.
“On a good year, Greece produces 300,000 tons of olive oil,” says Antoniades, who estimates that this year’s harvest will be around 50 percent less of what it was last year, mainly due to unfavourable weather conditions which saw little rain during the spring. Sarantos Polyzois, who runs a modern olive mill in the village of Kremmydia in Messinia and exports his 1000 Horia (1000 Villages) to Germany and Austria, says Greek olive oil is facing an identity crisis.
“We need to explain to foreign consumers why its worth selecting Greek olive oil, rather than Italian or Spanish. We need to make it clear why we are different and due to geography and climate Kalamata olive oil is among the best in the world.” Last year, Greek olive oil exports were up 24 percent in Germany and 67.5 per cent in China.
That figure is likely to increase as companies producing top quality oils are cutting prices to boost exports. “Greece did not know the modern art of marketing itself to consumers – its products are great but they were unknown on the world market – until now,” says Peter Poulos, who together with Marina Papatoni founded the Navarino Icons brand three years ago.
“We recognised a need for high quality, beautifully packaged Greek food and cultural products in the international market place.” Today, extra-virgin olive oil by Costa Navarino can be found at high-end stores across the globe, including Dean & DeLuca in the United States, Harrods and Marks & Spencer in Britain, as well as shops in Hong Kong and Singapore.
“We are actively looking to expand into markets where we know consumers appreciate the quality of Greek products including the rest of the Americas and Europe, the Middle East and Asia and Australia,” says Poulos. Many farmers still harvest olive by hand, refusing to use mechanical shakers.
“The best olive oil is extra-virgin olive oil which has less than 0.8 acidity,” says Paraskevopoulos, adding that the more than 10,000 trees producing the Koroneiki variety olive at Costa Navarino have acidity oil levels under 0.3. “You want to choose olive oil from the most recent harvest. Like with wine, different seasons and different years make for unique oil – but unlike wine, fresher is better,” he adds.VN:F [1.9.22_1171]VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
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- Sam and Carol Braslow recently opened The Mighty Olive in the Laurelwood Collection in East Memphis. When Sam Braslow’s family sold A. Schwab on Beale Street two years ago, he thought he was finished with retail. Then he and his wife Carol visited an olive oil and vinegar store...
Sam and Carol Braslow recently opened The Mighty Olive in the Laurelwood Collection in East Memphis.
When Sam Braslow’s family sold A. Schwab on Beale Street two years ago, he thought he was finished with retail. Then he and his wife Carol visited an olive oil and vinegar store in Pensacola. They were hooked.
“We couldn’t believe Pensacola had an oil and vinegar store, and there wasn’t one in Memphis,” Braslow said.
Six months later, the couple opened The Mighty Olive, a-taste-before-you-buy store offering dozens of artisan olive oils and balsamic vinegars merchandized in stainless steel tanks called fustis. The oils and vinegars come in small, medium, or large-size bottles and in sampling and gift packs.
Here’s how shopping at The Mighty Olive works: A sign on each fusti describes the flavor of the oil or vinegar, along with suggested food pairings and crush dates. (That’s the date oils are made.) Customers sample whatever sounds appealing with small tasting cups and chunks of sourdough bread. The number of choices is remarkable: single variety olive oils, infused oils such as wild mushroom and sage, and balsamic vinegars such as aged red apple.
Along with the oil and vinegars, the store sells a charming selection of kitchen accessories, artisan chocolates including Frans (a favorite of both Oprah and President Obama), and private label pastas. A bar also stretches across the back of store, where the retailers will host tastings, cooking demonstrations, and private parties.
After spending a delightful 30 minutes in The Mightly Olive, I purchased orange/vanilla white balsamic vinegar (sprinkle it on fruit salad) and organic butter infused olive oil (try it on baked potatoes). When I got home, I was so enthused about my shopping that I sent Braslow a few extra questions about the finer points of shopping at the couple’s new store.
Memphis Stew: You sell both fused olive oil and infused olive oil. What is the difference between the two?
Braslow: Fused olive oils are produced in the northern hemisphere which would include California, Tunisia, Italy, etc. It’s typically made at the tail end of the season in the winter with late harvest olives so that the flavors coming from the olives will not dominate the herb, fruit, or vegetable being crushed with them. By comparison, our naturally infused olive oils are infused with natural essential plant oils.
Memphis Stew: Some recipes call for white balsamic vinegar. How is white balsamic different from dark?
Braslow: White balsamic is made from the same white Trebbiano grape as the dark. White balsamic blends the white grape with white wine vinegar and is cooked at a low temperature to avoid any initial darkening and then is aged in non-charred barrels to avoid any further darkening. The difference is a matter of aesthetics and taste. You might use white pear vinegar in a potato salad to maintain the white color. It is a little less sweet and has a clean aftertaste.
Memphis Stew: How long does olive oil keep?
Braslow: Our extra virgin, ultra-premium olive oils have a shelf life of two years from crush. The freshness of the oil is affected by heat, light, and exposure to air. We suggest storing olive oil away from heat in a colored glass bottle. Purchase a size bottle that you will use in six months to avoid prolonged exposure to air.
Memphis Stew: What is your favorite olive oil and balsamic vinegar pairing? What about Carol?
Braslow: My favorite pairing today is blood orange olive oil paired with dark chocolate balsamic. It is great drizzled on cheese or tossed with strawberries. Carol’s is cilantro and roasted onion olive oil paired with cranberry pear balsamic on salmon.
Memphis Stew: Tell me about the little tree growing in your store window.
Braslow: The tree was given to us by a close friend. It is a young Arbequina olive tree. We hope it will thrive and give us olives next year.
Memphis Stew: And finally, is there anything else you’d like to share about the products in your store?
Braslow: Our olive oils are kosher, gluten free, and delicious. Our balsamic vinegars are a traditional condiment, caramel color free, and aged up to 18 years.
The Mighty Olive, 4615 Poplar, Suite 18 (901-240-6226)
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- The world’s biggest fast food restaurant has reinvented itself since serving just burgers and shakes, and now has a website where customers want the truth. LOCAL olive oil makers will launch a $300,000 national ad campaign tonight after failing in a two-year bid to have...
The world’s biggest fast food restaurant has reinvented itself since serving just burgers and shakes, and now has a website where customers want the truth.
LOCAL olive oil makers will launch a $300,000 national ad campaign tonight after failing in a two-year bid to have what they say are substandard imports comply with Australian standards.
Australian Olive Association CEO Lisa Armstrong said the campaign was “a last-ditch effort” as various authorities had failed to enforce the same standards on imports as applied to local olive oils.
“We had been hoping the regulators would step in and not leave a lot of this decision-making to consumers but they don’t seem to want to do that,” she said. “We need to now educate consumers ourselves.”
OLIVE OIL “CON” HITS SOUTH AUSTRALIA
SUPERMARKETS’ EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL FAILS INVESTIGATION
But Paul Berryman from the Australian Olive Oil Association, which represents olive oil importers, hit back saying there is room for everyone, local and imported, refined and pure olive oils and the focus should be on using olive oil fit for purpose.
“What everyone should be doing is promoting the use of good olive oil and that is what we are trying to do but they (the AOA) seem very much intent on denigrating imported oil,” he said.
“We consumer in Australia 55,000 tonnes of olive oil and Australia produces (about) 15,000 tonnes of olive oil, so they can’t even meet supply, so why they are carrying on as they do I don’t understand.”
Ms Armstrong said the campaign was “not import bashing”.
“We are happy to call our product what it is and we don’t mind competing head to head with imported product as long as it is labelled correctly and the claims it makes are true,” she said.
AOA testing over two years found that, of 106 imported oils representing 40 different brands, 77 per cent failed the Australian Standard.
The EU admitted last month that olive oil is the No. 1 product most at risk of food fraud, including the substitution of Greek olive oil for Italian oil to the addition of refined or cheaper oils such as corn, hazelnut and palm oil.
Refined oils are often labelled as “Pure”, “Light” and “Extra Light” and make up about 45 per cent of Australia’s total olive oil consumption, which is almost two litres per person per year.
“In Europe they don’t make claims like pure and light and extra light because they are meaningless and they are not terms that are used. But in Australia they are allowed to happen,” said Ms Armstrong.
“These people are able to label a refined, bleached, deodorised product with terminology that intentionally confuses a consumer.”
Australians have doubled their consumption of locally produced extra virgin olive oil to 31 per cent of total consumption in the past 18 months and grocery sales of local olive oil are expected to exceed $100m by 2014.
The three-week national ad campaign, starting tonight on television and followed up in print, will be fronted by nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan.
“People assume that be buying a European oil you are going to be getting a better oil,” said Dr McMillan. “In fact that is not true at all. Europe do produce some great oils but they are keeping it for themselves and the stuff that they send over to Australia is the real substandard stuff unless you spend a lot of money in your local posh shop.”
Local chefs backing the campaign include Stephanie Alexander.
“I would like to convince as many consumers as possible that Australia extra virgin olive oil is the freshest product and that it doesn’t age,” she said.
“You don’t need to keep a bottle of olive oil for three years in the back of the cupboard because that’s the worst possible thing you can do with it.”
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- According to European diplomatic sources, the two countries claim that letting the Palestinians into the council may jeopardize the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The main condition of the US-brokered negotiations was the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange...
According to European diplomatic sources, the two countries claim that letting the Palestinians into the council may jeopardize the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The main condition of the US-brokered negotiations was the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a Palestinian promise not to join any UN organizations. Jean-Louis Barjol, Executive Director of the International Olive Council, connemts.
Olive oil has always been a key component of Palestine’s economy. Some experts stress that the International Olive Council is a technical organization and by joining it the Palestinians would not break the promise they made. The External Action Service also seems to favor Palestine’s move.
A German Foreign Ministry official said in a statement the final decision would be taken by the EU and not Germany alone, though the German stance on the issue is well known. Britain has so far withheld any comments.
The European Union’s member states are represented on the olive council by a single joint delegation. In case they fail to reach a universal agreement, the EU delegation will abstain from voting. The prospect of a diplomatic failure prompted Palestine to postpone the application prepared by the Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry this summer. Voting was scheduled for this week in Madrid.
How can you explain the latest Palestinian decision to freeze the application to the Olive Council?
In the International Olive Council in Madrid we had this week the annual session of the members, on the agenda there was request from Palestine to become a new member of IOC. When we opened the session the Ambassador of Palestine in Madrid attended the meeting and requested the Assembly to postpone the analysis of the request until the next session. So this is what will be done and the point was postponed from the agenda.
When is the next session and why do you think that they have made this decision?
The next ordinary session of the International Olive Council is once a year, so it will be next November 2014. The reason why it was postponed was not explained in the presentation. So we assumed that there were debates among the Palestinian authorities maybe with other IOC members but we don’t have any details regarding this point. What has to be cleared is that the International Olive Council is a technical body; we are not doing politics, we are only dealing with norms, with promotion, with technical assistance.
What were the chances that if Palestine had decided to apply for membership, what are the chances they would have received that membership this time around?
I have no element to answer your question, because I’m the Executive Director, I’m not the speculator on the intention of any member of the IOC, I’m sorry.
Olives are crucial for the Palestinian economy. It seems that Britain and Germany are opposed to Palestine’s membership. Why do you think they are opposed?
Germany and the UK are not direct members of the IOC. They are members of the EU. We do not have contact with the German authorities or the UK authorities. We only have contact with EU. EU was present at the table, and they took note of the request, of the Palestinian Ambassador in Madrid to postpone the decision.
What is your forecast? Will we see the EU countries coming to the universal agreement and alien Palestine into the IOC? When will that possibly happen in your opinion?
This is an internal issue for the EU, as the Executive Director of the international body where my only member is the EU, not the individual members of the EU, I have no element to answer your question because this question should be addressed to the EU. What I should insist on because I think this it the point you are not clearly aware of is the fact that Palestine is in a situation of observer in the IOC, it has always been accepted by all the IOC members to be an observer. It’s no their first time, it observed in the previous session. We used to have Palestinian observers attending our sessions.
I see. So basically what can you say about Palestine if they were to get membership, what would they actually do for Palestine? What advantages would that give them?
That would be for them mainly regarding technical assistance. Because with them we could not only give them list of experts what we are already doing nowadays on the basis of them being observers but we could build up together common activities, to give them grants to organize seminars, workshop on this kind of issues. We could also give them a scholarship to train people in terms of chemical analysis, electric analysis because Palestine is an important olive oil country. They are producing important volumes of olive oil. And the help OIC can provide them and this is what they are looking for it is on how always improving their quality from the tree up to the bottle.
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