Nothing is more closely associated with Greek cooking than its delicious, excellent olive oil. Here are some basic facts about Greek olive oil:
Oil from the Peloponnese is made predominantly with the Coroneiki olive, which imparts a deeply herbaceous tone to oil.
Southern Peloponnese, Kalamata and the Mani: When made with pure Coroneiki olives these oils tend to be robust, with plenty of grassy tones, bitter almond skins and spicy pepper.
Messinia, also in the Peloponnese, produces olive oil that is typically made with a mixture of Coroneiki and two other varieties, the local Manaki and the Athinolia, which result in a lighter oil, with more citrus and nutty tones.
The Mani peninsula, further south, with its arid, rough terrain produces oil from the Coroneiki olive that is softer and gentler, but still with those characteristic herbaceous tones. This is a remote area which sticks to traditional methods and many of the oils are certified organic.
Laconia, over the Taigetos mountains, offers more first-class oils with three PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) regions and a more general PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) for the whole region. The Greeks themselves praise the sweeter oils of Lygourio and Kranidi, also PDO areas, in the eastern Peloponnese, where the Manaki olive is dominant. These oils offer subtle aromas of apples and citrus fruits with only a touch of bitterness and pepper.
Crete leads the islands in production and international presence and accounts for a large portion of total Greek olive oil production. Coroneiki dominates here as it does on the mainland but there are some local varieties such as Tsounati in Chania, Throumbalia in Rethymnon and Hondrolia in Heraklion and the taste and flavors of the oils are quite varied.
On the western side of the island, swept by the sweet sea breezes of the coastline which lies but a few kilometers away, Kolymvari produces some of the fruitiest olive oils on the island, with grassy, apple, and lettuce overtones and a peppery bite.
Situated on the opposite, eastern side of Crete, Sitia’s oils have been award winners at international competitions time and again over the past decade. These oils, also produced with the Coroneiki variety, tend to have a peppery finish, and to be buttery and herbaceous on the palate. Most production is in co-operatives but there are also a number of smaller producers who press excellent oils.
An island in the northeastern Aegean with approximately 87,000 inhabitants, Lesvos is home to 11 million olive trees, or about 126 trees per inhabitant. Almost one third of the island’s entire land mass is planted with olive trees. The trees are generally of two local olive varieties, the Kolovi, which accounts for 65% of production, and the Adramytiani, which accounts for about 30%. Needless to say, Lesvos, after the Peloponnese and Crete, is Greece’s most important olive oil producing region. The oil produced here tends to be a lighter, almost golden color, and not the emerald green color typical of Cretan and Peloponnese oils; it is light on the palate, with a mildly herbaceous aroma.