Italian olive oil is also known by the name of “Italian gold” because of its color tending to yellow. It is one of the biggest national gastronomic prides and is exported all over the world. The production of olive oil is rooted in the ancient popular culture and still, despite the advances in industry, there are countless small companies and local producers who make their brands using the oldest traditional methods.
L’oro d’Italia si chiama Olio d’Oliva
Among the Italian food Excellencies, the famous olive oil certainly stands out above them all, a fundamental product of the Mediterranean diet regularly present on the tables of all Italians. Olive oil is produced throughout the Italian territory, even if the regions most concerned with its production are Puglia, Calabria and Toscana.
The production of olive oil is closely linked to popular traditions, although, as it should be, agri-food companies have made giant strides in technology and therefore production at industrial level can no longer be compared to the oldest, traditionalist methods. However, both in Italy and abroad, it is not difficult today to find small producers who still use more genuine methods and which commercialize their excellent products, even if in on a decidedly smaller scale.
From olives to olive oil: the production process
The process of producing Italian olive oil is concentrated in the winter season, although the time and methods of harvesting vary considerably from region to region, depending on the type of tree and the geomorphology of the soil. Of course, different harvesting times and processing of different types, lead to the production of very different oils. Every olive oil to be respected, especially if of high quality, just like the wines or other products typical of the tradition, presents its own organoleptic characteristics and its own taste and olfactory peculiarities.
The production varies from region to region and above all on the basis of the type of oil to be obtained. There are many methods of harvesting. In Tuscany It is customary to use mechanical shakers to make the olives fall before they mature, when they are still green. Instead in Calabria the usual method is to respect, the natural maturation of the olives, which are gathered in large nets placed on the ground only when they are already ripe and decide to fall by themselves. In Puglia, however, the custom is to harvest more or less half-matured olives directly from the trees, with manual collection. Once harvested, the olives are cleaned and brought to the mill, where they are pressed and reduced to oil, separating the most fibrous part from the juice.
Italian olive oil: companies and designations
Italian olive oil can have various designations. The most valuable is definitely the one that has the words “extra virgin“. The wording “extra-virgin olive oil” guarantees the fact that it is an oil derived from the very first pressing of olives, more valuable and richer in micronutrients. It is a wording that can be applied on the label only after authorization, and it is therefore impossible to obtain it if the oil has not previously passed an endless series of qualitative controls. Following this is virgin oil and the classic olive oil, with gradually descending quality. The most famous Italian olive oil companies in Italy and the world are certainly the oldest Bertolli and the equally renowned Carapelli.
How to recognise a good oil?
A good Italian olive oil is recognized first of all by its flavor. If of poor quality, in fact, it will tend to have a particularly pungent and almost spicy, unpleasant taste. The coloration can vary from pale yellow to bright green and depends exclusively on the harvesting time of the olives: the more mature they are the more they tend to golden yellow, the less mature the more they will tend to green. An oil derived from very ripe olives will taste much more delicate than the oil derived from still green olives, which will be more intense and richer in fruity nuances. The denomination PDO is certainly a guarantee of the origin of the olives