Last month Tim tackled the biggest question on many olive oil consumers’ minds – guaranteeing authenticity in the face of fraud. While some may be tempted to solve this problem by swearing off certain countries of production, Tim argued that the key to finding great olive oil is finding a source you can trust. As we have experienced in our search for the best products for our shops, there are excellent, fair, and yes, fraudulent olive oils in all olive growing regions. It is only by knowing the producer and building trust with them that we can guaranteeing an excellent oil every time.
With that in mind, and as somewhat of an olive oil novice myself, I took it upon myself to taste through a few of our favorite olive oils, settling on three producers from three different countries representing some of the best oils Europe has to offer.
SPAIN: Xertoli Coupage
One of the first oils Tim recommended to me, this Spanish olive oil from Catalonia is made from olives grown on trees ranging from 100 to 1000 years old in the Baix Ebre-Monsià region, some of the first ever Catalonian olive groves. The blend features three local Spanish olive varieties – Sevillenca, Farga, and Morruda. The aromatic Morruda olives blend well with the more standard Sevillenca olives, a variety that is also popular locally eaten green, tossed in salad. This sweet, fruity olive oil is rounded out by Farga olives, which were brought into Spain by the Arabs during the Middle Ages. Hints of apple and the sharp, bright flavor of green almonds, I found it to be a wonderfully light finishing oil for any Mediterranean-inspired dish.
GREECE: My Olive Tree
Representing Greece, this olive oil is produced by the Karelas family in the small town of Karpofora in Messinia. Their family has been growing the small, highly prized Greek Koroneiki olives for oil, as well as Kalamata olives for eating, in their groves for five generations. The full-flavored Koroneiki olives yield a beautifully smooth, almost buttery oil with a peppery kick. I found it balanced and fruity in the middle with a pleasingly astringent finish, well deserving of its 2014 Gold award at the New York International Olive Oil Competition!
ITALY: La Bandiera Toscano
This Italian olive oil is produced on a privately owned estate near Bolgheri, a small medieval village in Tuscany with olive groves dating back around 1000 years. Tuscan oils are highly sought after for their density of flavor, a result of harvesting the olives young, before winter frosts set in. La Bandiera uses three iconically pungent Tuscan olive varieties harvested just as they begin to ripen – fruity Moriaolo olives, the milder Leccino olives, and lightly grassy Frantonio olives. After harvesting and pressing each variety separately, they then expertly blend the oils to minimize acidity, yielding a beautifully sweet, smooth oil.
Rob Campbell is a culinary adventurer, world traveler, science geek, and also the blog manager at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.