Say Hello to the New Harvest Olive Oils
Though we didn’t originally intend to sell olive oil, throughout our 20+ years of business, we’ve tasted oils during our travels that were so spectacular that they made us rethink and expand our catalog. We are very picky when it comes to olive oil, which is why we only sell a select few. Italy, Spain, and Portugal are all represented with uncommon native varietals of olives only found in certain regions. These aren’t your run-of-the-mill (pun intended) oils; they are something special.
By this time of year, the olive oils coming in are from the 2021 harvest that took place last fall. Producers face different climatic conditions and weather each season that affect the ripening of the olives, and ultimately, the harvest. They must tweak each oil depending on how the varietals have grown and ripened while maintaining a certain profile. Our producers are experts who use their tasting skills to come up with the best blend each year that exhibits the desired characteristics for that specific oil. Join us as we introduce each of their oils and share their news from the 2021 harvest.
Azienda Agricola Costantino Mariangela
Lametia DOP Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil is an estate olive oil made by Mariangela Costantino. A mere 10 people scattered throughout 9 towns in the Lamezia Terme region of Calabria make Lametia DOP oil and it is very hard to find here in the U.S. Mariangela grows 100% Carolea olives, which are native to the area, on her family’s estate of 10,000 trees. Her whole operation, which is closed-circle, is run with incredible care; she grows the olives organically, presses within three hours, and bottles the oil on site. She has installed solar panels, producing clean energy and reducing her footprint on the land. Additionally, after making the oil, the waste like pits and stems are used to produce thermal energy to heat the agriturismo that Mariangela also runs on her property.
This year’s harvest began on September 24 and continued through the end of October. Early harvest preserves more beneficial biophenols (antioxidants) in the olives – this year’s biophenol content is very high at 367mg/kg. Dry conditions favored the production of healthy olives, which led to an excellent quality oil this year. Its profile is medium fruity with notes of artichoke and wild herbs. It is more spicy than bitter while maintaining balance between flavors. Lametia DOP olive oil was recently added to the Slow Food Presidia, which uphold the values of Slow Food, honoring tradition and encouraging producers to utilize sustainable production methods and maintain biodiversity. Mariangela has built a business based on values that we share here at Forever Cheese, and her outstanding oil is a clear indication that her efforts have paid off.
CARM (Casa Agricola Roboredo Madeira)
Filipe Madeira is the owner of CARM in the Douro Superior of Portugal, producer of many distinguished wines and olive oils, amongst them the one we chose to carry, Grande Escolha Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The steep hills of the region are particularly well suited to growing grapes and olives. The organic olive groves have been in the Madeira family since the 17th century; the trees are anywhere from 50 to 1,000 years old! CARM grows only native Portuguese varietals including Madural, Negrinha de Freixo, Verdeal, and Cobrançosa. Filipe prides himself on cold extracting the olives anywhere between 10 minutes and 4 hours after harvest, an exceptional feat.
The 2021 harvest presented some difficulties, as Filipe explains: “Last year was a curious year in the Douro Superior; we had a super cold winter, little rain during spring, and the summer didn’t have a hot peak as usual but no rain at all, which provoked a complex maturation.” After finishing the harvest a month later than usual due to weather, Filipe worked on the final blend in December. He says the oil is super balanced this year with great mouthfeel and intense aromas. It is one of the most delicate oils of the last 10 years. After winning best Portuguese olive oil in national competitions for 21 years in a row, we anticipate that this oil will have another winning year with the latest blend.
Casa Pareja Organic Olive Oil comes from the arid lands of Jumilla, Spain, home to cheeses like Drunken Goat and El Abuelo. Juan owns the 5th generation company and makes the oil on his estate of 400 year old trees that thrive in the dry Mediterranean climate. He grows the olives using organic and biodynamic methods (certified by Demeter) and they are picked by hand come harvest season. The bold fruity aromas present come from the varietals of olives used, including Spanish Arbequina, Cuquillo, Hojiblanca, and Picual, and the percentages vary each year based on owner Juan’s careful assessment of the harvest. Because the oil is unfiltered, it has a thick velvety mouthfeel that really brings out the nuances of the olives.
Climatic conditions were very good in 2021, and though the harvest was quite delayed, there wasn’t an overload of fruit on the trees and the quality of the resulting oil is spectacular. The aromas are intense, with notes of ripe olives, apple, and green herbs. As for flavor, it is considered a mild oil because the fruitiness is most prominent, with medium spiciness and low bitterness and a soft, buttery finish.
Herdade do Esporão
Based in the region of Alentejo, Portugal, Esporão are internationally lauded makers of wine and olive oil. They obsess over quality and pay attention to every detail of the oil making process. In this vein, they built a new state-of-the-art olive mill in 2016, with Ana Carrilho overseeing the entire process. Her expertise is apparent in every bottle of Esporão oil, and she focuses on quick transportation of olives to the mill after harvest and uses the latest technology to preserve the unique aromas and flavors of the olive varietals. They also recently converted all of their groves to organic farming.
High temperatures in Alentejo last spring led to early flowering and maturation of the olives. Lots of rain throughout the season kept the soils and trees replenished and brought an increase of production. Esporão’s everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a carefully considered blend of varietals harvested between October and December 2021. The oil is low intensity with fruity green aromas. Their organic oil, from their Olival dos Arrifes grove, was made from Cobrançosa and Arbequina olives harvested in October at their optimal ripeness. It’s higher in intensity, with aromas of olive leaves, freshly cut grass, and spices. It starts out bitter and spicy with a finish of dried fruit. Selecção, their premium oil, was harvested between October and November to obtain greener olives that led to a more complex and harmonious oil. Varietals used include Cobrançosa, Azeiteira, Redondil, Arbequina, Arbosana, and Picual. It’s herbaceous, spicy, and slightly bitter with an acidity of 0.2%.
The newest additions to our line, Mis Raíces oils come from Bajo Aragón, a DOP region in northeastern Spain. This region is no stranger to olive oil making, and some of the oldest groves in Spain are found there. The town where brothers Victor and Álvaro make their oil is even called Oliete, which is derived from the Latin Olivatum, meaning olive grove or land of olives. Their family made oil for their own personal consumption for generations, and the brothers now continue in that tradition, selling their oil blends made with the unique varietal Empeltre. These trees make up just a tenth of the acreage of the most common olive in Spain, the Picual, so these oils are quite uncommon and singular.
Mis Raíces makes three oils: Premium Roots, Organic Roots, and Roots. The harvest for this year’s Premium Roots took place in October, and the Empeltre and Arbequina olives were extracted within 12 hours. It is a medium intensity oil with notes of fresh grass and aromas of artichoke, fennel, and almonds. Their organic harvest, also consisting of Empeltre and Arbequina olives, started in early October and continued through November. The blend has strong aromas of ripe fruit, with a great balance between bitterness, spiciness, and sweetness. Their everyday oil Roots came from a later harvest in November of the same varietals. It is less intense in flavor but the sweet notes of ripe tomato are dominant here.
Did You Know?
The acidity level of olive oil is a great indicator of quality. It has nothing to do with a tart flavor, instead, it has to do with the chemical makeup of olive oil. Olives have an acidity of 0 and contain triglycerides, a compound that is made up of a group of 3 fatty acids and 1 glycerol molecule. During production, hydrolysis (exposure to water) or oxidation (exposure to air) can occur, and the fatty acids break free, raising the acidity. Oxidation can result from any number of issues, including overripe fruit, delays between harvest and extraction, or using tanks that are not airtight. It comes down to the quality of the raw material and how it is handled during production. To be classified as extra virgin olive oil, it must have an acidity of 0.8% or lower. The highest quality oils are 0.3% or lower, and not accidentally, all of ours are!