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A Brief Introduction To Spanish Olive Oils

Liquid gold

Grown from time immemorial in the Mediterranean area, the mythical olive tree still produces the flavoursome, exquisite and healthy oil that constitutes one of the basic ingredients of Spanish cuisine.

This adulation comes as no surprise if we take into account the fact that Spain produces nearly half of all olive oil consumed in the world! The most vital production areas are: Andalusia -with over 80% of Spanish production-, Catalonia, Castilla-la-Mancha and Extremadura.

There are up to 30 olive varieties currently being cultivated in Spain for the production of olive oil. The main ones are: Picual from Jaen, Cornicabra from Castilla-la-Mancha, Hojiblanca from Cordoba and Malaga, Lechin from Seville, Empeltre from Aragon and the Balearic Islands and Arbequina from Catalonia.

The first four varieties, all from Andalusia, produce tangy, bitter, fruity and slightly spicy olive oils, very suitable for cooking and fried dishes (the typical Andalusian “fritos”). On the other hand, the Catalan Arbequina olive variety gives sweet, soft and fragrant olive oils, brilliant for salads, boiled vegetables, omelettes, mayonnaise and fish dishes.

Different qualities are reflected in the price

The taste and aroma of two olive oils can be a world apart, depending on their quality. By law, olive oils are categorised as follows:

Extra virgin olive oil (“aceite de oliva extra virgen”): Up to 1% of acidity (quantity of acid in the oil i.e. a sign of chemical alteration) and a minimum mark of 6.5 out of 10 awarded by a panel of tasting experts. This is natural “olive juice” in its purest state and boasts an fascinating and captivating range of aromas and flavours. It is obtained from the mechanical pressing of olives collected in their prime.

Virgin olive oil (“aceite de oliva virgen”): Up to 2% of acidity and a minimum mark of 5.5. In other words, a excellent virgin olive oil that did not make it to the top category.

Olive oil (“aceite de oliva”): this olive oil has NOT been obtained through the mechanical pressing of olives, but rather from the refining of –originally defective- olive oils to which a small quantity of virgin olive oil has been added in order to improve its flavour and reduce its acidity.

Olive oil and health benefits

Olive oil –sometimes called “liquid gold”- has many nutritional properties, as health authorities and nutritionists all over the world underline regularly. Amongst other benefits, olive oil:

Reduces the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Has anti-ageing properties due to the high level of vitamin E it contains.
Can help to prevent breast and intestinal cancer.
Reduces the “terrible” cholesterol and increases the “excellent” one.
Reduces the risk of atherosclerosis.
Improves bone structure.
Helps the digestive system to function properly.

For a fine selection of Spanish extra virgin olive oils, you can visit delinostrum.com/ delinostrum.com

Marcel Risques is a partner of delinostrum.com delinostrum.com, a Spanish food gourmet e-store based in Barcelona.

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