Spain is known world wide for its excellent quality olive oil and is actually the greatest producer in the world, for its oil quality is unsurpassable.
Spanish olive oil contains no additives, colorants, flavorings or any other foreign matter and is obtained by decantation, centrifusion and filtration, its quality depends on several factors, such as soil type, olive variety, climate, humidity, etc.
Spain´s geographic conditions, together with the large number of olive varieties used in making Spanish olive oils, mean that it can offer a wide range of aromas and flavors that are unrivalled by any other producing country. Olives are grown throughout Spain but certainly each region has its own varities and styles.
Olives are harvested “ordeño” style (pulling the olive branches) at the precise time of maturation, when they change color (golden red), and there are scarcely any green olives. They are immediately transported to the mill to prevent damage to the fruit and in order to obtain high quality oil. The milling of the olive is a process of little mechanic intervention.
Catalonia in particular produces high quality olive oil, which is one of the main ingredients in Mediterranean cuisine and it plays a fundamental role in traditional diets and Catalan cuisine
At present there are four Protected Denominations of Origin (PDOs) in Catalonia: Les Garrigues, La Siurana, La Terra Alta and El Baix Ebre-Montsià. In addition, L’Empordà DOP is in the process of gaining community certification. Visiting the olive groves in the late autumn and early winter, when the olives are harvested and pressed in the mill and new oil is made, provides a unique spectacle and an excellent way of finding out about the culture of olive oil.
There are mainly four olive oil types:
• Extra virgin olive oil, which is obtained from high quality olives on the first extraction. This oil has a strong aroma of the fruit, and cannot surpass 1% acidity
• Virgin olive oil, commercialized in Spain under the name of “fine”, it cannot surpass 2% acidity.
• Normal virgin olive oil, commonly used to produce refined oils, it does not surpass 3.3% acidity.
• Refined olive oil is “refined” because of its non appropriate “virgin” quality.
Not only is olive oil known as “golden liquid”, but it also offers many health benefits, here are just a few:
It is rich in vitamin E, which prevents oxidation of bad cholesterol.
It has antioxidant properties which prevent cellular ageing and formation of cancerous substances
In diabetics, the consumption of olive oil favors the decrease of the glycemia levels.
Many of Gourmand Breaks Food & Wine Tours include private visits to experience first hand how the oil is pressed- if you come at the right season you can even have a go at harvesting the olives yourself!