Friday, 19 October 2007

Spanish olive oil: Protected Denominations of Origin

Spain, the biggest olive oil producer in the world, has made a big effort towards quality over the past few decades. Hence it currently boasts over 20 Protected Denominations of Origin (or Denominación de Origen Protegida – D.O.P.) which guarantee not only the quality but also the uniqueness of each variety and production area. Andalusia, being the most prominent production area, concentrates the largest number of D.O.P. followed by Catalonia and Extremadura. The widest D.O.P., in terms of acres being cultivated, is located in Montes de Toledo (Castilla-La Mancha).

Technically, D.O.P.’s are regulated by the European Union and constitute an assurance to consumers that the olive oil has been produced in a precise area using local olive varieties and following certain productions methods that ensure a premium quality liquid.

Once a D.O.P. has been recognised first by the Spanish Department of Agriculture and at a later stage by the competent European authority, the requirements for belonging to a particular D.O.P. are established. A regulatory body is then created to make sure that all olive oil producers associated comply with the requirements and legislation determined by the D.O.P. They also watch over the quality of the final product and, to this end, carry out a variety of tests and controls. In general terms, the olive oils protected are these of premium quality (extra virgin olive oils) and it is not unusual that the maximum acidity level allowed by the D.O.P. is as low as 0,5%.

Some of the most important D.O.P.s in Spain are Baena, Priego de Córdoba, Montes de Granada, Sierra Magina, Sierra de Segura and Sierra de Cazorla in Andalucia; Montes de Toledo in Castilla-La Mancha; Les Garrigues and Siurana in Catalonia; Gata-Hurdes in Extremadura and Bajo Aragón in Aragón.

Let’s look at them in more detail:
  • Beana: it comprises the towns located in the southwest of Córdoba and the varieties of olives protected are Picudo, Hojiblanca, Lechín de Sevilla, Pajarero, Chorrúo and Picual. The oils obtained vary from yellowish to greenish shades and generally have a fruity taste with a hint of bitterness at the end.

  • Priego de Córdoba: it corresponds to the protected area of Sierras Subbéticas in the heart of Andalucia and the olive varieties protected are Picudo and Hojiblanca which give fruity and sweet oil and Picual, which produces oils of a slightly bitter taste.

  • Montes de Granada: it extends through the province of Granada and mainly protects the picual, loaime, lucio and negrillo de Iznalloz. The olive oils produced boast an intense fruity aroma.

  • Sierra Magina: it comprises the natural reserve of Sierra Magina and the protected olive variety is Picual which gives oils of fruity aroma and bitter taste.

  • Sierra de Segura: this D.O.P. assembles the towns scattered throughout the northeast of Jaén where the local varieties protected are mainly Picual and to a lesser extent Hojiblanca and manzanillo de Jaén. The olive oils produced are well balanced and fragrant.

  • Montes de Toledo: it embraces over a hundred towns located in the provinces of Ciudad Real and Toledo and protects the local variety of Cornicabra. The oils obtained are delicate and the aromas reminiscent of almonds.

  • Les Garrigues: it includes the 24 towns that constitute this county in the province of Lleida. The varieties protected are Arbequina and Verdiel which produce fragrant and fruity oils, very much appreciated for their sweetness.

  • Siurana: it corresponds to the counties of Tarragona, located in the southern corner of Catalonia, where the main varieties grown are Arbequina, Royal and Morrut. The olive oils of this D.O.P. are silky, aromatic and slightly sweet.

  • Gata-Hurdes: it embraces five counties in the north of Càceres and the main variety associated to the area is manzanilla cacereña, which gives soft and aromatic oils.

  • Bajo Aragón: it corresponds to the northeast area of Aragón and its most important variety is Empeltre. These oils are golden yellow and have a nice fruity taste.

All in all, D.O.P.’s are guarantors of the richness and tradition associated to olive oil production. However, excellent extra virgin olive oils can also be found outside these regulatory bodies.

For a fine selection of Spanish extra virgin olive oils please visit our Spanish food online store.


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