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Thursday, September 18, 2014 (read 1987 times)
Ranking Spanish Olive Oilby David
Most people know that Spain is an important producer of olive oil, but what some people may not realize is that the best olive oil doesn't come from that boot-shaped country surrounded by the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas. In recent history, Italy has been a great marketer of its products, from olive oil to ceramic tiles, and in countries like the United States, its reputation usually precedes itself with what is considered to be a fine blend of style and quality. That is why Italian olive oil and Italian ceramic tiles command a greater price in relation to domestically produced products or other similar products from other countries, like Spain.
Quality Olive Oil
It is not uncommon for a 16 ounce bottle of quality extra virgin olive oil to cost more than $20 with some bottles reaching the $100 mark or more! Since Italian oil has more recognition, especially in the US, Spanish oil is less known and also more inexpensive. Something that may surprise you is that much of that Italian olive oil that you've been eating is probably a blend of oil from Italy, Spain, Greece, Tunisia, Turkey and who knows where else. On the darker side of things, it has been shown that what you think may be extra virgin olive oil imported from Europe may actually be something quite different.
Since American consumers are more willing to spend big money on Italian olive oil, Spanish oil producing companies have employed a "if you can't beat them, join them" attitude. This means that instead of spending a huge amount of money in marketing campaigns to let consumers know the advantages of Spanish oil, they have purchased Italian companies and sell their Spanish oil with under an Italian brand instead. When you purchase oil from recognized brands like Bertolli, Carapelli and Sasso you should look closely to see the origin of where that oil in the bottle comes from (something that is required by European labeling laws); more often than not, Italy won't be the only country you see on the list. In the case of these three Italian brands, they belong to Spanish oil giant Deoleo. While this seems like an excellent strategy, especially if you want to maximize profits—that same oil would sell at an inferior price if it were sold under a Spanish label—but it doesn't help Spain, as a brand, gain more recognition and respect in important markets like the United States.
Given the recent scandals that have rocked the olive oil world and the lack of recognition of the quality of Spanish olive oil, people here in Spain should be relieved to know that this year's award for the world's best olive oil has gone to a Spanish brand. Not only that, of the 50 olive oils chosen as being the best in the world, 29 of them are Spanish and if that's not enough, eight of the top ten are also of Spanish origin. The oil chosen as the best in the world is Venta del Baron from Mueloliva. This small family-run business from the Province of Córdoba, located in a small village between Córdoba and Granada, has already been recognized as one of the best and most respected olive oil producers in Spain even before this award was given.
Venta del Baron is an olive oil that is a blend of hojiblanca, picual and picudo olives grown entirely in the Protected Denomination of Origin (DOP in Spanish) of Priego de Córdoba—this region has a special microclimate that includes extreme changes in temperature and high annual rainfall. These circumstances coupled with the rugged terrain produce a tree that is robust and resistant. Once the olives have been harvested, they are cold pressed within 15 hours. After being pressed and refined, both of which are heavily controlled by the DOP, the bottling occurs in the same location unlike larger operations where bottling takes place in a separate plant.
The Venta del Baron is characterized for its intense fruity flavor, herbal notes and hints of mint, almond, banana and apple. According to Mueloliva, this is an ideal olive oil to enjoy at breakfast with a hearty piece of toast made with rustic bread, for use with appetizers, in salads and any other dish where you would like this unique oil to stand out.
With producers like Mueloliva and products like Venta del Baron (there are at least 29 others!), Spanish olive oil should begin to step out of the shadow of its southern European neighbors. Not only is Spanish olive oil a great product, it is also a great value. You may already have some in you cupboard but with the branding from another country and it's probably half as good as it could be. So now is the time for you to go out and buy a different extra virgin olive oil, but maybe with a more Spanish name this time.
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Posted In: Culture