Ridgway discovers that Portuguese olive oil is finally
coming of age and finding its place in the European market.
you look in the rugged landscape of the Upper Douro and the
Tras-os-Montes in northern Portugal or among the gently
rolling hills of Moura and the Norte Alentejano you will
find an olive oil industry which is finally leaving its
rustic past and moving into the high-tech world of the
Portuguese production of olive oil this year is expected to
increase but given the country's very small percentage of
total EU production it will remain a drop in the ocean.
However, life may be a little easier for the
Portuguese exporters this year with Spain's forecasted
shortfall of 100,000-200,000 tonnes against the expected
800,000-900,000 tonnes. The latter could lead to a temporary shortage of
olive oil with a consequent firming of prices.
compete in the international marketplace Portugal needs to
produce premium oils of some class.
Historically, Portugal consumed all the olive oil it
could produce and there was no need or desire to export.
The style of oil was rustic and often slightly oxidized
but the Portuguese were not very interested in the
niceties of extra virgin olive oil. They liked their oil the way it was.
in the eighties part of the home market was seduced by the
health claims made for polyunsaturated vegetable oils and
the demand for olive oil started to decline and with it the
cultivation of the olive.
In some parts of the Ribatejo, for example, groves
were left to go to rack and ruin and some were grubbed up to
make way for the more modern sunflower.
trend is now being reversed. The health aspects of olive oil have received a good
deal of attention, export markets for olive oil are growing
and Portugal has joined the European Union. As a result, olive groves are being rescued or
replanted and modern equipment is being installed in both
old and new olive mills.
fact, Portugal may well have benefited from the previous
decline in olive oil production.
Research into new cultivation techniques and the best
types of centrifugal pressing equipment has been growing in
momentum and many of Southern Europe's universities have
joined with the olive research stations in this work. Portuguese producers are now able to leap-frog over the
mistakes made in other producing countries and latch on to
the most up-to-date techniques.
Generation of Producers
Olives are a traditional crop in most parts of Portugal. Small
farmers have their vines, their vegetables and their olive trees.
Farms like these supply the olive oil producing co-operatives
like the one at Moura in south eastern Portugal. This is the
largest co-operative in Portugal with 1,000 producers, growing the
local Cordovil as well as Galega and Verdeal. Here modern
know-how is being applied to ancient practices and the mix is producing
some first-rate olive oil.
the trend, particularly in southern Portugal where there are
more large estates and fewer people living on the land, is
towards a much larger olive groves.
The Olidal co-operative at Sousel near Estramoz in
the Norte Alentejano was formed five years ago and brought
together one very large landowner with around 30 other
philosophy here is extremely go ahead and old groves have
been grubbed up to make way for new and extended plantings
which march across the landscape in a way which is very
reminiscent of Andalucia.
The total holding is 800 hectares making it one of
the largest in Portugal.
main plantings have been of the native Galega and Cobrancosa
olives with Blanquetta and Spain's Picual - a variety which
is frowned upon by some in Portugal who feel that native
varieties help to define the new Portuguese style.
However, Picual yields almost double the amount of
oil given by other varieties.
irrigation has been installed in many of the groves with
sophisticated computer control of water and fertilizer.
In addition, the groves have been planted in wide
rows to allow modern mechanical harvesting of the type used
in some parts of southern Spain.
The olives are shaken from the trees and hoovered up
into large hoppers for transportation to the mill.
The belief is that any damage to the olives is offset
by the speed with which they reach the mill and are
Olidol mill itself is equally modern with a two phase
continuous centrifugal system with no added water.
The system not only produces first class extra virgin
oil but also reduces the problems of disposing of the waste
vegetable water from the mill. Production is expected to double in the next three to four
years as the new groves come on stream.
Olidol is not the only group to install the latest equipment.
SPAZA, the wine-making company, has invested in a site at Serpa
just south of Moura to make Esporao extra virgin olive oil. The
existing co-operative mill has been fully modernised and looks more
like a winery with its stainless steel holding tanks and continuous
mills. There are now forty growers supplying the mill and they
work hand in hand with the experts at SPAZA to improve the quality of
structure of olive oil production in northern Portugal is
rather different to that in the south.
The pattern of small holdings is much more entrenched
and the land is more densely populated.
Olives and olive oil production never really faltered
in this area and many of the co-operatives continue as they
there are strong indications that here, too, modernisation
is on the way. The
lead is coming from local people who have been working in
Lisbon as doctors, civil engineers and the like and who have
decided to return to their roots.
Farms on family estates are being dragged into the
such boutique outfit is Quinta do Carrascal situated near to
Villa Flor in the Tras-os-Montes.
Vines and olive grow side by side on this pretty
family run farm but the rustic picture is not bourne out by
the state-of-the-art equipment in the tiny mill and the
sophisticated weather checking equipment which is used to
forecast possible invasions by the olive fly.
similar but much larger concern has been set up by the
Madeira family at Casa Agricola Roboredo near Vilar de
Amargo in the upper Douro.
A brand new mill has been built to house two
production lines. One
uses traditional granite mill stones linked to a stainless
steel decanting machine.
The other line uses a Sinolea machine which extracts
a much lower percentage of the oil.
Madeira the olive oil maker is both dedicated and highly
is in constant dialogue with Professor Gouveia, the leading
light in the renaissance of Portuguese olive oil.
Great care is taken at every stage from grove to
result is a range of excellent extra virgin olive oils with
a taste and flavour which is unique in Portugal.
style of Madeira's oil is much more grassy than other
Portuguese oils with some pungency and these characteristics
may be intensified if Madeira carries out his plan to start
the harvest a little earlier this year.
There are a number of farms on the estate and their
names are used as brand names for the oils. The plan is to produce a different style of oil for each
the olive oil producers described above are producing
premium olive oils which can complete with the best in
Europe and they will need to for most of them are produced
for export. There
is a small market for first class oil in Lisbon but the rest
of the country remains wedded to the old-style rustic oils.
one of the new weapons in the Portuguese oil armoury is the
European DOP or denomination of origin system.
Professor Gouveia in Lisbon has supervised the
setting up of five DOP regions with fully fledged
accreditation organizations and all the new producers make
at least one oil under their auspices.
The designated regions are Tras-os-Montes, Beira
Interior which is rather behind the other four, Ribatejo,
Norte Alentejano and Moura.
DOP regions for oil are rather like AOC or DOC regions for wine.
Oils which carry the DOP symbol on their label must be made from
named olive varieties to certain high specifications which include
acidity levels well below one per cent (required for extra virgin
status) and must be submitted to organoleptic tasting panels.
registration has been slow to take off in the major
producing countries. There
are still only around a dozen DOP regions in Spain and not
all that many more in Italy, though interest is beginning to
grow there. Producers,
both large and small, have not really seen the advantage of
gaining DOP accreditation.
this looks set to change, particularly in Italy where some
of the large producers see DOP oils as their stepping stone
into the premium olive oil market.
Conversely small producers have not taken up DOP
accreditation as they have in Portugal.
They see it as being too expensive and, if the large
producers do get on the bandwagon, not of sufficiently high
status to reflect the quality of their oils. Maybe we shall eventually see Tuscan superoils in the
same fashion as superwines.
of origin has yet to make an impact on the consumer but
money is now being spent both by the EU and by the producing
countries to give people more information.
The Italian Government is said to planning a major
promotion of Italian DOP oils.
promotions can only help Portuguese DOP oils and, judging by
the strides forward which have already been made, we can
expect to see more Portuguese olive oil reaching the
standards set by the top Spanish and Italian oils.
Ridgway is an international judge and expert on olive
oil. She has written more than 55 books on food and wine,
appears on radio and television, gives tutored tastings
and seminars, staff training, product assessment, and does
consultancy work for public relations and promotional
companies. She can be reached at http://www.oliveoil.org.uk/
Black Scale Control
The black scale is best controlled in August once all eggs have hatched
and crawlers are out on the leaves. In the San Joaquin Valley, this is a
"one generation per year insect". The adults mature in March and
April, lay eggs and the crawlers (immature stages), the only stages
susceptible to insecticide treatment, emerge from under the females in June,
July, and August. For most effective treatment, applications must be delayed
until all eggs have hatched.
Although black scale can be effectively treated from August
mid-winter, early treatments (August) are best as the longer an infestation
remains in place, the more negative effect it has on the subsequent bloom -
to say nothing of coating this year's crop with honeydew and sooty mold.
Comments from the Internet:
Dear Olive Oil Source: While I respect Bruce
Golino enormously, I take issue with his "plant in
the fall" recommendation. Bruce notes that fall
planting is common in Italy, which is true, but it is
important to bear in mind that most of Italy experiences
some degree of rainfall during the summer, which we do
not. As a consequence, the soil is
exceptionally dry, and results in high stress on the young
trees (even if drip irrigation begins immediately upon
Our experience (and we've
tried it both ways) shows that spring planting has a much
higher success rate. In addition, because
fall-planted trees go dormant soon after planting, we've
detected no advantage in speed-to-production from
fall-planted trees in comparison to those planted the
following spring. While we will reluctantly
sell trees for fall planting, we strongly recommend to our
customers that they wait and plant in the April-June time
frame. Sincerely -- Ridgely Evers, Olive Ridge Ranch, DaVero Extra
Virgin Olive Oil
asks: I have an 4 month
old miniature schnauzer with a heart murmur
that we started giving a tsp. of olive oil to
( at 8 weeks ) each morning with her kibble.
We have been told that cod liver oil would
Replies: Are pets the next
growth area for olive oil sales? Cod liver oil is an
excellent health additive as far as vitamins. It is
higher than olive oil in Vit. A. Fish oils are high in
polyunsaturated fatty acids known as the omega-3 or n-3
fatty acids which some studies have shown prevent heart
disease in humans. Fish oils are also high in the precursors
of thromboxanes and prostacyclins, which are important for
platelet and vessel wall physiology and may inhibit the
formation of blood clots in the coronary arteries. In spite
of all this the American Heart Association (AHA) does not
recommend general usage of fish oil supplements until more
compelling evidence is at hand. (Note that heart murmurs are
usually valvular problems and are unrelated to coronary
artery disease and clots which are affected by diet.) The
AHA does currently recommend a "Mediterranean
diet" which predominates in polyunsaturated or
monosaturated fats such as is found in olive oil, canola
oil, nuts and fish. Olive oil has polyphenols and other
antioxidants as well as monosaturated fats which have a
salubrious effect on the heart and blood pressure. I am not
a veterinarian but I would guess that for the dog, its
a toss-up which oil to use. The calories for both are the
same. We haven't discussed taste which we are assuming is
not a factor for a dog. Although fish oils are healthy, they
would be a hard sell for human consumption as a table
spread, salad dressing, baking ingredient, etc. due to
Delegation Tours California
by Oliver Spitz
They get Tips on Organic Farming and
Olive Oil Production via educational Program Sponsored by
the U.S. Agency for International Developement (A.I.D.)
This July a group of Albanian growers, parliamentarians and university
scientists toured California in an effort to jump start their
struggling economy by creating an organic farming industry. Fertilizers
and pesticides have not been used in Albania due to their prohibitive
cost and the hillsides are covered with old growth olive trees. The
U.S. A.I.D. has been
helping their citizens develop a market economy catering to the EU's
increasing demand for organic produce and oil. Caroline Krawiec Brownstone of International
Management and Marketing Associates was
responsible for implementation of the U.S. A.I.D. program to help draft legislation in Albania to
establish standards for integrated farm produce using
reduced amounts of chemicals and establish
certification mechanisms for such produce. Olive
oil, honey, vegetables, especially tomatoes, and herbs
were specifically targeted for this program. Lisa Noe from
the Olive Oil Source helped research their
itinerary and rode on the bus to hear their reactions to our farming and marketing
IMMA organized the entire program in the U.S. for Albanian project. The first meeting took place at the McEvoy Ranch, a certified organic producer, where they
received a history of the estate, and an oil tasting
from Michael Coon. Shari Dejoseph,
orchard manager, gave a tour of the grounds. She explained how oyster
shell and gypsum was added to the pH 5.4 clay soil to improve
drainage, get fuller growth, improved color and increase resistance to
peacock spot. Drip irrigation systems discharge 20 to 25 gallons once
a week for the larger trees. Olive compost and cow manure is
spread on the surface and cover crops such as vetch and clover are
planted then mown between the 18 X 18 foot roes. Fish meal may be used
in future. Professor Kristaq Sini,
microbiologist at the Agricultural University of Tirana was dismayed
that no tilling was used to get these nutrients into the soil and that
no biological agents were used to capture the expensive nitrogen
compounds being dumped on the surface. It seems that there has been
more effort to capture nitrogen naturally with legumes and microbes in
Albania because of the unavailability of fertilizer. (Erosion concerns
prohibit tilling in Sonoma). Pruning methods were quite different as we
need not worry about the olive fly (quite yet). Propagation techniques
were reputed to be similar to what is done in Albania. In addition to
removing most of the leaves from twigs to be rooted, Dr. Hairi Ismaili of
the Institute of Fruit Trees demonstrated cutting the remaining leaves
in half to decrease transpirational water losses. The group was
given a tour of the stone and steel mills, and the Rapanelli sinolea
separator and the Pieralisi centrifuge decanter. Currently the
Rapanelli unit produces 40% of the oil at the estate but it is mixed
with output from the decanter. There may be plans in future to sell the
At the Olive Press in Glen Ellen
Greg Reisinger gave a history of California olives
and oil varieties and examined the Pieralisi press.
The press processes 1 ton/hr at a temperature of 72 to
77 degrees Fahrenheit. They seemed especially
interested in advanced storage methods such as
nitrogen capping in the large tanks. Upon
touring the retail location the Albanians were shocked
that the oil sold for $16 to $18 per 500ml.
(Average pay of university professors is around $100
U.S. per month). The premium glass containers
were also regarded with skepticism as the average
Albanian could never afford such expensive
packaging. They were eager to note that to sell
premium organic oil outside of their country they must
adjust the product and packaging accordingly.
At Viansa winery in Sonoma the
tour group had a chance to see cutting edge private labeling
and marketing techniques for oils, vinegars, salsas,
spreads, tapenades, etc., organic and otherwise.
The store and tasting area was its usual frenzy of
consumerism courtesy of busloads of San Francisco
tourists getting their first glimpse of the wine
Next on the tour Nicola and
Caroline Critelli presented the Fairfield
operations of Calio Groves. They viewed
the Alfa Laval equipment capable of processing 3 tons
per hour. Calio Groves produced 135,000 gallons
last year of California oil and imported 245,000
gallons of olive oil for their restaurant trade.
They are also importing 200,000 lbs of canola a month
for their restaurant blends.
In Santa Rosa U.C. extension
olive expert Paul Vossen gave a concise talk on
olive oil tasting, the organic movement in California,
organic testing, and organic legislation and
organizations. The Albanians were very
interested in the mechanism of cooperation
between the counties, state and Universities as there
is a need to set up a similar system in their
country. Sophia Galifaro, hazardous
materials program manager for Sonoma County also gave
At the Vaca Valley Orchard Company
where vegetables and herbs are gradually replacing
fruit trees dying of oak rot the group was given a
presentation on small size sustainable and organic
farming by owner Mary Eldredge.
Vegetables and fruit are grown at the site for sale at
a farm store and also for export to Southern
California. The visitors seemed intrigued with
the organic pest management techniques. The farm
keeps some sort of plant in bloom year round to keep a
sizable colony of ladybugs from migrating and feeders
attract birds which are natural pest killers.
Sticky traps with ammonia attractant is used during
certain insect hatches. Mary explained how she
paid a percentage of her gross and other monies for
organic certification and support for associations
which help promote organic farmers. She also
described the considerable paperwork and documentation
burden imposed on organic farmers.
The group viewed an organic herb and
seed farm in greenhouses which used innovative
plumbing to heat or cool raised beds depending on the
time of year. Herbs are grown year round for
local consumption. A site visit was made to the
olive orchard at Ridgely Evers in
Healdsburg. A day was also spent at the Center
for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and
the California Certified Organic Farmers, both
in Santa Cruz. Day long visits were made to
Sacramento to meet with the State of California
Department of Food and Agriculture and the California
Farm Bureau. Site visits were made to the University
of California, Davis where presentations were made
by the Statewide Integrated Pest Management Project
and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers.
The Albanians also visited the San Francisco and Davis
farmer's markets and were given a presentation by John
Deane of The Olive Oil Source on collaborating via
the internet. The participants were encouraged
to join newsgroups and email lists to learn from olive
oil and organic farmers worldwide.
Calio Groves will be
dropping the Critelli label for retail
packaging but will continue it for the
The Olivary articulated arm
harvester will be available for viewing
end of August - call the Olive Oil Source for
For more news - go to our Food
Olive oil tasting, August 1,
Monday, 6:30-9pm, tasting.
South Bay Adult School, 600 Diamond St., Room 601, Redondo Beach, CA. $34. Call
(310) 318-5152 for directions.
California State Fair 2000 August
18th through September 4th Fairgrounds, Sacramento
Festival of the Culinary Arts
San Francisco on Polk St. Live cooking demonstrations by celebrity
chefs and members of the California Culinary Academy. Representatives of
Critelli, Sciabica and Jamestown olive oil were there last year.
How to Select & Enjoy California Olive
Oil - Sept 16 and Sept
30 - a
fun and friendly crash course with lots of tasting, videos, and
handouts; Stephanie Prima is a member of the C.O.O.C. Master Taste
Sat Sept 161:00 – 4:00 p.m. City College (415) 239-3000 Marina Middle School,
San Francisco CA
Sat Sept 30 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Lodi Arts
Commission (209) 367-5442 125 S. Hutchins St., Ste. D Lodi CA
Products Expo, Baltimore,
College Arts and Olive Oil Festival Saturday,
September 30 and Sunday, October 1, 2000. Held
at Canada College in Redwood City, California. COOC producers may
exhibit and receive a complimentary 10' by 10' space. You must participate
Annual Consorzio Cal-Italia Wine Tasting
Saturday, October 7,
Taste Italian Varietals and Foods Produced in California! Admission for
the public is $25 per person
Media and Trade: 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm Consumers: 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm Herbst
Pavilion, Fort Mason, San Francisco
How to Select & Enjoy California Olive
Oil - Oct 14, Oct 24 and Oct 28
- a fun and friendly crash course with lots of tasting, videos, and handouts; Stephanie Prima is a member of the
C.O.O.C. Master Taste Panel. firstname.lastname@example.org
Oct 14 Sat. 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Foothill Community College (408) 864-8817 12345 El Monte Road Los Altos CA 94022
Oct 24 Tue 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Lodi Arts Commission (209) 367-5442 125 S.
Hutchins St., Ste. D Lodi CA 95240
Oct 28 Sat 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Santa Rosa Community College (707) 527-4371
1501 Mendocino Avenue Santa Rosa CA 95401
18th Annual AgFRESNO Farm Equipment Exposition
November 14-16, 2000
Fats and Oils: Opportunities and Responsibilities in the New Century,
Oil Chemists' Society/American Oil Chemists' Society World Congress 2000 (JAWC
Other Event Calendars:
Culinary Institute Calendar
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