Like so many things in modern society, the Greek Koroneiki olive originated in Greece before it swept the world. Today, Greece is the second-largest olive oil producing country in the world, behind Spain. However, some sources say Greece is the top consumer of olive oil, with each person consuming almost 24 quarts each year. Needless to say, the Greeks know a thing or two about olive oil.
This olive variety is prevalent in Crete and the Peloponnese. Nowadays, however, it’s producing excellent olive oils in California, Italy, New Zealand, France, and many more.
What makes this olive oil so popular worldwide? Here’s a look into the Koroneiki olive and the acclaimed olive oils it makes.
An Introduction to Olives
Even if olives are a normal part of your diet, topping your pizzas, adding umami to your happy hours, or bobbing in your martini, you might not know exactly where olives come from. As it turns out, the process of bringing an olive from the tree to the table (or the bottle) is an interesting one.
To start, did you know that there’s no difference between green olives and black olives? Unripe olives are green. As they ripen, they turn black.
As green olives are naturally very bitter, they must be cured before they can be eaten. Curing is a preservation and flavoring process that draws moisture outside of the food by using salt. There are many methods of curing olives, including oil-curing, brining, dry-curing, and more.
It’s worth noting that olives that go into olive oil are not cured. In fact, very peppery finish extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) get their iconic, slightly bitter taste from an early harvest. Olive oils made from olives that were harvested later in the season are smoother and more buttery in flavor.
Which Olives Are Used To Make Olive Oil?
There are hundreds, possibly even more than a thousand olive varieties – also known as “cultivars” – around the world. According to researcher Michael Moustakas, there are 52 olive cultivars used in Greece. At the time of his report in 2010, 80% of the orchard land in Greece was devoted to growing olives.
Different cultivars produce different olives, which all have their own shape, color, and flavor. Olive oils can be a blend – meaning they use olives from two or more varietals – or a monovarietal. A monovarietal, also called monocultivar, means they were made from a single olive cultivar.
Just as wine doesn’t only depend upon the grape, olive oil is about more than the olive. The cultivation, the harvesting, and the terroir in which the olives are grown all have an effect on the flavor of the oil.
While any olive can be pressed to make olive oil, some have become more prevalent than others. Why? Some olive cultivars have properties that perfectly lend themselves to oil, from a robust yield to a particularly high concentration of healthy nutrients.
Here’s a bit about Koroneiki, one of the most popular olives.
What is the Koroneiki Olive?
Perhaps the most important olive oil varietal grown in Crete and the Pelponnese is the Koroneiki cultivar. Thanks to its attractive qualities, the Koroneiki olive has become the most popular cultivar grown in Greece. By some counts, it makes up for 50-60% of the country’s olive producing acreage.
This olive is relatively small, with a teardrop shape, but it is mighty. These olives are hardy, relatively easy to grow, and robust in flavor and pungency. Here’s why olive oil producers (and consumers!) love the Koroneiki olive.
What Makes The Koroneiki Olive Special?
1. It’s easy to produce.
Farmers like working with Koroneiki trees, as they are suitable for super high density olive planting. It is relatively easy to produce in terms of moisture, temperature, soil, and care.
According to Livita Plus, an olive growing method based on high density olive groves, here are the qualities that make it this way:
- Low vitality
- Open crown
- High resistance to drought
- Entry into early production
- Resistance to leaf maculation
2. The tree boasts a high yield.
The Koroneiki olive tree is known for its excellent yield levels. According to Livita Plus, “productivity is very high, with a fat yield of about 20%," an appealing trait to any olive ranch.
3. It’s packed with nutrients.
The Koroneiki olive packs a punch of antioxidants to fight off free radicals. Research shows that polyphenols may have a range of health benefits. They might reduce morbidity and slow the development of neurodegenerative diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
Some of the polyphenols found in extra virgin olive oil are oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, and oleocanthal. Koroneiki olives typically have high levels of polyphenols and oleocanthal, which lends a bitter and intense flavor to the oils. (Read more about these compounds here.)
4. It has impressive stability.
A high polyphenol count isn’t just healthier – it also makes a more stable olive oil. The antioxidants slow down the natural oxidation process. That means a polyphenol-packed olive oil is less likely to become rancid than other supermarket olive oils. Koroneiki olives also have low acidity, which also makes the oil last longer. Once you do open up a bottle, you’ll find it works well for preserving foods and making olive oil infusions.
5. It has a bold, complex flavor.
Aside from function, Koroneiki olives are known for their robust flavor. This olive has a unique flavor profile with notes of hazelnut and apple. It may also have some peppery notes and a pleasant bitterness, caused by the high amount of polyphenol.
The Best Olive Oils Made With Koroneiki Olives
There are many award-winning olive oils made with Koroneiki olives, both from Greece and abroad. Here are a few of the Koroneiki olive oils that took home big awards at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
The Best Greek Olive Oils Made With Koroneiki Olives
- One of the best Koroneiki olive oils on the market is the PJ Kabos Family Reserve. This award-winning bottle is made from hand-harvested Koroneiki olives grown in the mountains of the Western Peloponnese region of Greece. These olives are pressed at the mill immediately after the harvest, which results in a low-acidity olive oil that is complex, delicate-to-medium in intensite, and high in polyphenols.
- The Neolea is an intriguing monovarietal from Kalamata, Greece. This unfiltered yet clear olive oil has low acidity and a sweet, full-bodied taste. It has a light aftertaste that’s slightly peppery.
- Another award-winning bottle made in Kalamata is the Iliada Organic Emerald Selection EVOO. This medium monovarietal has a unique aroma of vanilla, green banana, and tropical fruits. It is pungent and moderately bitter, with a pink pepper finish.
- Manoli Canoli’s Apollee is a fine, organic Koroneiki blend that has tasting notes of artichoke, tomato, tomato leaf, grass, and green almond. As it is medium in intensity, it pairs well with dishes like french fries and beef carpaccio.
- The Laconiko is a medium monovarietal from Trinisa, Laconia the southern Peloponnese. It’s produced by Dino and Diamantis Pierrakos, who aim to keep the family heritage alive. In addition to its rich flavor, it’s high in antioxidants.
The Best Koroneiki Olive Oils Made Outside of Greece
Koroneiki olives are now being used to make high-quality olive oils outside of Greece.
Here are a few Koroneiki olive oils that have won gold or silver at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
- The Organic Roots Koroneiki EVOO is an award-winning olive oil produced in California. High in polyphenols, it’s peppery and medium in intensity. The tasting notes are green banana and floral. With its peppery taste, it’s perfect for rich dishes or a vinaigrette.
- Another award-winning California bottle is the Enzo Organic Bold. This well-balanced yet robust olive oil has nutty green and grassy notes, with a spicy finish. It would make an intriguing addition to chocolate ice cream.
- From Tuscany, the Etrurio Sostenuto by Olive Grove Partners Srl is an interesting blend. Made with Koroneiki as well as Arbequina, Maurino, Sikitika, and Correggiola, it has notes of herbs and artichoke with a spicy aftertaste.
How To Serve Koroneiki Olive Oil
As the fruity Koroneiki extra virgin olive oil has so much character, it can be used in many applications. Try these recipes to highlight the flavors of a Koroneiki olive oil.
- Turn it into a dipping oil for crusty bread. Add some high-quality balsamic vinegar (like this Compagnia Del Montale Vigna Bordo Balsamic Vinegar IGP). Would you rather taste the oil all its own? Just sprinkle with a little sea salt and serve with bread.
- Use Koroneiki olive oil as a salad dressing along with a little squeeze of citrus.
- Add as an elegant finishing oil over a homemade soup.
- Drizzle over chocolate ice cream to add depth and complexity, or bake it into an olive oil cake.
However you choose to enjoy this delicious olive oil, make sure you truly savor it’s unique flavor!