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Thread: Greek (mostly Cretan) olive oil

  1. #11
    Senior Member SBE's Avatar
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    P.S. I just had a look at the corporate website of Terra Creta and it is definitely not a family that harvests and produces and bottles its own olive oil from its own family olive grove. It is a company that buys from several producers and is run like a modern factory, as one would expect from a company with intentions of this scale. I am sorry to ruin this for you, but it’s the same with most agricultural products in Greece. The feta we buy in the shops is not produced the way my great uncle made his own feta at home, by milking his two goats that were roaming freely in his fields and using his kitchen utensils. Its all done in highly sanitized facilities, using large-scale methods that ensure consistency and hygiene.

  2. #12
    Senior Member Theseus's Avatar
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    Thanks, SBE & 'Man. The whole affair seems to be a minefield. I'll just have to tread warily.

  3. #13
    Senior Member SBE's Avatar
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    Not really. All you need to do is try before you buy. And if you can't it doesn't mean there will be a problem. Lidl in the UK used to stock a Greek olive oil (we are discussing EVOO, so I won't keep repeating it, all else is suitable for engines, not humans), which I bought once when I ran out and it was very good (the more expensive one, they also have a cheaper Greek olive oil, too, but I haven't tried it).
    A friend bought Sainsbury's own brand Greek EVOO and it tasted bitter. Very bitter. We threw it away. I think it must have been stored badly. Or anyway, something had happened to it. And I have seen bottles of olive oil on sunny shelves in British supermarkets and crionged. Olive oil should be kept in a dark place, otherwise it becomes rancid. And I think that bad storage is a very common problem in the UK and you can see olive oil that has changed colour due to bad storage being on the shelves and sold to people who know nothing about it.
    So first of all look for a dark green glass bottle or a tin. Not a transparent bottle. If you buy a tin, then decant it into a glass bottle once opened. At home store your bottle in a dark place (and the bottle you decant it into does not have to be dark, since it is kept in a dark place).
    Then, first of all avoid Elais (owned by Unilever) and their engine oils. They may be big, very big, but I don't know anybody who buys their stuff in Greece. Maybe people who know nothing of good olive oil (unlike their long-running tv ad that goes "I am from X and I know how to distinguish good olive oil" where X is some olive oil producing region, είμαι από την Καλαμάτα και ξέρω να ξεχωρίζω το καλό λάδι etc etc).
    Then avoid supermarket own brands unless you are certain that they have been stored appropriately. Lidl stores them appropriately, Waitrose does not. I have seen many bottles enjoying the sunshine in Waitrose shelves.
    Then go for one of the brands mentioned here. Kolymvari Gold is a very good combination of price and taste and widely available in the UK. Bevellini, from the same people who import Kolymvari Gold is probably very similar.
    A few years ago Sainsbury's used to stock Greek Artisans Early Harvest, and I think it is the best bought olive oil I have ever tasted.
    Other than that, remember that price does not mean quality. In Greece almost everyone has some source of own olive oil, and many have turned to putting it in fancy bottles with designer logos, giving it fancy ancient sounding names and trying to sell it overseas for extortionate prices. Most of the olive oil they bottle and sell comes from the same trees and producers as the one not sold in fancy bottles with fancy names. I think I know the one Daeman talks about, it was on sale at Selfridges for £45 a few years ago. The USP was that it was filtered. Like 99.9% of all olive oils. Nice fancy bottle but someone who tried it told me it was nothing special. This stuff is aimed at those who know nothing about olive oil but want to show off their expensive and refined tastes. There's even a shop in London owned by Greeks, who sells exactly that: the dream, the idea that olive oil is a hip, gourmet product for people with money. Pretty much the same snobbishness the UK public have with wine, which they drink neat (horror of horrors) and they pretend they know about it (another horror). And the same thing that is happening with coffee and hipsters (and ridiculed in a very funny Macdonalds ad recently).
    I am not saying that it is not good, I am saying that it is not good value, because what costs about 3-4 euros wholesale is sold for 20-30 once inside the fancy bottle. Also, I don't mind that the shop sells what it sells There is market for that, and they cater for that market. But for most of us, who have access to plenty of olive oil from our own trees this type of commercialisation is a source of amusement. So buy whatever you like, but don't pay £10 for 250ml. Even if they promise you it's amazing etc etc. Try it. If you think it is amazing, fine, if not...

  4. #14
    Senior Member Theseus's Avatar
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    Thanks again, SBE! I am indebted to you for your illuminating article and your excellent guide to the purchase of EVOO. I am fascinated to read your comments on serving wine diluted. Can you briefly explain what the modern Greek practice is? I'd like you to give me a quick résumée also on why it is so barbaric to drink wine neat. BTW, I know the ancient Greeks and Romans always drank their wine diluted. Perhaps you can give me the good reasons why they did this.......

  5. #15
    Mod Almighty Palavra's Avatar
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    Amazon.de has lots of Kolymvari olive oils. I don't know if they deliver where you are, but you can go through them and find out.
    About the wine, I've read that Ancient Greek wine was too strong (and thick), unlike modern wine, so it had to be diluted in order to be drinkable.
    The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge".
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  6. #16
    Senior Member Theseus's Avatar
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    Thanks, Palαύρα. I 'll try and see if they export it from Germany. About the wine: see what SBE says about in #13:-
    Pretty much the same snobbishness the UK public have with wine, which they drink neat (horror of horrors) and they pretend they know about it (another horror). And the same thing that is happening with coffee and hipsters (and ridiculed in a very funny Macdonalds ad recently).

  7. #17
    Mod Almighty Palavra's Avatar
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    I'm pretty sure SBE does not imply that Greeks -or anybody else, for that matter- water their wine, I think she means that people in the UK drink their wine without eating anything to go with it. This is extremely unusual in Greece - even the most disorganised of bars offer a minimum of peanuts to go with
    The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge".
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  8. #18
    Senior Member SBE's Avatar
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    I just looked up the definition of neat and it only has the meaning undiluted, whereas I have been using it to mean undiluted but also to mean ξεροσφύρι. Apologies for the misunderstanding.
    Theseus, it is my understanding you have travelled to Greece. Do you recall seeing anyone drinking diluted wine?

  9. #19
    Senior Member daeman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SBE View Post
    ... Do you recall seeing anyone drinking diluted wine?
    I do, Miss, I do, but mostly Germans mixing retsina with cola, a certainly cringeworthy concoction, but given the ahem... "quality" of retsina they preferred because it was the cheapest, I would not blame them much for trying to avoid that horrid taste. But then again, a slightly better kind of retsina or other wine would not cost much more than the combination of that cheap stuff and cola. I'm sure that it's not only Germans who do (or at least did) that; I just happened more often to notice Germans doing it. I've also seen several tourists, from central Europe mostly, dilute good wine with soda or sparkling water, because bubbles...

    As I've frequently seen Greeks drink ouzo with cola or orange soda because it was quite cheaper than other drinks, straight or mixed. Πενία τέχνες κατεργάζεται, αλλά και ό,τι πληρώνεις παίρνεις. Και καλύτερα να ψάξεις να πιεις κάτι καλύτερο, κι ας είναι και λίγο πιο ακριβό (που δεν είναι απαραίτητο), άρα να πιεις λιγότερο αν έχεις περιορισμένο βαλάντιο, παρά να πίνεις ξίδια και να καταστρέφεις και τη γεύση και το στομάχι και το κεφάλι, και την όποια εμπειρία τελικά.

    As for neat and ξεροσφύρι, I know a good forum: Ξεροσφύρι.

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  10. #20
    HandyMod drsiebenmal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by daeman View Post
    ...but mostly Germans mixing retsina with cola, a certainly cringeworthy concoction, [...]
    Let's not forget here: Τούμπα λίμπρε ( 3X Malamatina retsina + Cola), the drink of ΠΑΟΚ afficionados.
    Wer die Wahrheit nicht weiß, der ist bloß ein Dummkopf. Aber wer sie weiß, und sie eine Lüge nennt, der ist ein Verbrecher!
    We base decisions on facts, not superstition, not what our ideology tells us but rather what we can observe

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