Extra virgin olive oils according to olive type

The extra virgin olive oil, the soul of Mediterranean cuisine, is one of Spain’s most prized gastronomic treasures. With more than 200 varieties of olives grown in its fertile lands, this country offers a spectrum of olive oils with flavour and aroma profiles as rich and varied as its own history and culture.

From the smooth and fruity Arbequina to the robust and spicy Picual, each type of olive gives its oil unique characteristics that can transform a simple dish into a culinary masterpiece.

This article delves into the vast world of olives and their oils, revealing how each variety brings distinctive nuances that can enrich any preparation. Through a journey through the olive-growing regions of Spain, we will discover the particularities that make each extra virgin olive oil a unique expression of its terroir.

The diversity of Spanish olives

Spain, world renowned for its cultural and natural diversity, is home to an equally varied olive-growing treasure trove. With more than 200 varieties of olives cultivated throughout its geography, the country is a true paradise for lovers of extra virgin olive oil. From the hillsides of Andalusia to the plains of Castilla-La Mancha, passing through the valleys of Catalonia, each region contributes its essence through unique types of olives, each with its own organoleptic characteristics that enrich the palette of flavours and aromas of Spanish oils.

Among this wide range of varieties, some have gained notoriety and have spread beyond their regions of origin, standing out for their adaptability and the exceptional quality of the oil they produce.

Many others, such as the Arbequina, Empeltre, Hojiblanca, Picual, Cornicabra, Hojiblanca, and Lechín, form the rich mosaic of the Spanish olive grove. Each type of olive, influenced by the climate, soil and agricultural practices of its region, contributes to the production of extra virgin olive oils with unique identities. This diversity not only reflects Spain’s agronomic richness, but also offers consumers a vast array of options to enrich their cuisine and palate.

 

Characteristics of olive varieties.

Extra virgin olive oil, a jewel of the Mediterranean diet, owes its richness of flavours and aromas to the diversity of the olives from which it is extracted. Each variety contributes unique characteristics that make each oil a singular experience. Below, we explore the particularities of some of the outstanding varieties and the impact they have on the sensory properties of the oil they produce.

Arbequina olive
Arbequina olive

Arbequina

Small but powerful, the Arbequina olive, originally from Catalonia and cultivated in the Spanish Levant and Balearic Islands, is synonymous with smooth and fruity oils. These oils are characterised by notes of apple, banana and almond, with a very light touch of bitterness and spiciness. Its delicacy makes it ideal for dishes that require a non-dominant oil, allowing the flavour of the food to shine.

Cornicabra

Mainly found in the provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real, this variety produces a robust oil, with a perfect balance between bitterness and pungency. Its sensory profile includes notes of ripe fruit, especially apple, and herbal hints, making it an excellent choice for salads and meat dishes.

Aceituna Picual
Picual olive

Picual

Grown in Andalusia, the Picual olive is known for its distinctive curved shape. The oils derived from this variety offer an aromatic complexity where fruity notes such as green apple and almond predominate. With a moderate bitterness and mild spiciness, Picual oil is wonderful for dressings and homemade mayonnaises.

Aceituna Royal Jaén
Aceituna Royal Jaén

Royal

Exclusive from the province of Jaén, this variety produces an oil highly valued for its intense and fresh fruitiness, with notes of fig tree and tomato. The Royal provides a natural sweetness and an almost non-existent spiciness, ideal for consumers looking for mild olive oils with character.

Lechín de Sevilla

This variety is distinguished by its balance between green tones, spiciness and moderate bitterness. Lechín de Sevilla oils stand out for theirfruity intensity, with hints of herbs and almond. Perfect to enhance the flavour of grilled vegetables or to prepare aromatic pestos.

Blanqueta

Predominant in Alicante, Blanqueta produces an oil with a high fruitiness, intense spiciness and notable bitterness. Its oils are prized for their banana and ripe tomato notes, adding depth and complexity to traditional and modern dishes alike.

Each of these varieties, together with the many others grown in Spain, contributes to an immensely rich olive-growing landscape. The choice of type of extra virgin olive oil can transform and elevate the cuisine, adding dimensions of flavour and aroma that enrich every mouthful. Experimenting with different varieties opens up a world of culinary possibilities, inviting chefs and amateurs to explore the diversity and richness of Spanish olive oil.

Monovarietals vs. Coupages

The richness of Spanish extra virgin olive oil is manifested not only in the diversity of its varieties, but also in the way these oils are presented to the consumer: as monovarietals or coupages. These two approaches offer different perspectives on how to enjoy and use extra virgin olive oil, each with its own unique qualities and applications in the kitchen.

Monovarietal

Monovarietal oils are those produced using a single olive variety. This purity allows consumers to fully appreciate the specific sensory profile of that variety, from its subtle fruity notes to its distinctive hints of bitterness and spiciness.

Monovarietals are an excellent choice for those who want to explore the unique characteristics of different olive varieties and understand how these flavours can complement certain dishes.

For example, an arbequina extra virgin olive oil, with its smoothness and almond notes, is ideal for dishes that require a more delicate oil that does not overpower the flavours of the main ingredients.

Coupages

In contrast, coupages are oils that result from the blending of two or more olive varieties. The art of coupage lies in the ability to combine different types of extra virgin olive oils, balancing their characteristics to create a harmonious and complex final product.

Coupages seek to make the best of each variety, offering a balance between sweetness, bitterness, spiciness and fruitiness that can be more versatile in the kitchen. These oils are ideal for those looking for a distinctive and balanced flavour, capable of enhancing a wide range of dishes without overpowering other flavours.

The choice between a monovarietal and a coupage ultimately depends on personal taste and intended culinary use. While single varietals allow for a deeper appreciation of the uniqueness of each olive variety, coupages offer a more balanced and rounded taste experience, designed to please a broad spectrum of palates.

Experimenting with both types of extra virgin olive oil can be an eye-opening culinary adventure, allowing new flavour combinations to be discovered and enriching the cooking and tasting experience.

Whether dressing a fresh salad, enhancing the flavour of a roast or simply enjoying a good bread with oil, choosing the right extra virgin olive oil can completely transform a dish.

Health benefits

Extra virgin olive oil is not only a culinary ingredient revered for its versatility and richness of flavours, but it is also a powerful ally for health. Scientifically recognised for its multiple benefits, EVOO is a fundamental pillar of the Mediterranean diet, one of the healthiest diets recommended by nutritionists all over the world.

Rich in antioxidants

Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with powerful antioxidants, including vitamin E and polyphenols, which fight oxidative stress and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including cancers.

Cardiovascular health

The healthy compounds present in EVOO, especially oleic acid (a type of monounsaturated fatty acid), contribute to maintaining healthy levels of cholesterol in the blood, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Its regular consumption helps protect against atherosclerosis, high blood pressure and reduces the risk of myocardial infarction.

Anti-inflammatory properties

The polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation in the body, which is beneficial in reducing pain associated with joint and muscle diseases, as well as chronic inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Neuroprotective effects

Recent studies suggest that EVOO consumption may have protective effects on the brain, potentially reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. This is attributed to its ability to improve blood vessel health and combat oxidative stress.

Weight control

Despite being high in calories, extra virgin olive oil can be an excellent ally in weight control when consumed as part of a balanced diet. Its healthy fat content promotes a feeling of satiety, helping to control appetite and preventing overeating.

Digestive health

EVOO is also beneficial for the digestive system, improving intestinal function and aiding in the absorption of nutrients. Its moderate consumption can relieve constipation and reduce the risk of gastric ulcers.

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