The Classification of Oils
The European Union has codified the following different designations based on certain parameters:
- Extra Virgin Oil or EVO oil: acidity ≤ 0.8%, mechanically extracted, ≤ 250 mg/kg of waxes (substances present in the skin).
- Virgin: acidity ≤ 2.0%, mechanically extracted, ≤ 250 mg/kg of waxes
- Refined: acidity ≤ 0.3%, rectification of virgin lampante, ≤ 350 mg/kg waxes
- Olive oil: acidity ≤ 1.0%, blend of oils, ≤ 350 mg/kg waxes
- Pomace oil (may also be refined): acidity ≤ 1.0%, > 350 mg/kg waxes
This classification also takes into account other aspects, such as the number of peroxides (substances formed during production and indicators of possible oxidation) and absorption during ultraviolet light.
In addition, if the oil is produced with at least 95% of olives from certified organic farming, then the producer can acquire the ''organic'' label.
Main Italian Areas and Cultivars
Italy boasts a unique heritage with over 500 varieties of olive trees, representing more than 40% of the world's cultivar heritage. In Apulia alone, the Italian region with the highest production numbers, there are over 60 million trees, almost one tree for every Italian inhabitant.
Each region has its own history, its most widespread cultivar and its own Italian oil, which varies according to soil type, climatic conditions and the characteristics of the fruit. This explains why there is such a rich and abundant choice within the same nation.
Let's take a brief look at our regions:
Liguria offers unique scenic landscapes, where olive trees climb steep and rugged terrain, bordered by dry stone walls. In these strips of land, which make their way between cliff walls, vertical hills and mountains, the Taggiasca variety is mainly grown, particularly in the areas in the province of Imperia and Savona, which gives very fluid, almost sweet EVOs with notes of dried fruit and pine nuts. Other less common cultivars are Razzola, Lavagnina and Biancarda.
In Lombardy, the most favourable area is Lake Garda, where products with a fruity and delicate flavour are produced, using Frantoio, Leccino or the local Casaliva and Sbresa cultivars. Other lake areas, such as those near Lakes Iseo, Como and Maggiore, also offer interesting results, with finer profiles and distinctly vegetal aromas.
Trentino finds its greatest expression in the hills around Riva del Garda, where the Leccino variety dominates the scene, followed by other local cultivars. This is the most extreme area for the cultivation of olive trees and therefore production is smaller, but of great quality.
Veneto, in addition to the long Garda area similar to Lombardy, but with more intense and characterful EVOs, also involves the Valpolicella and Colli Euganei areas, where the ancient native varieties Casaliva, Favarol and Rasara coexist with more recently planted varieties such as Leccino and Frantoio.
Friuli has a small production of high quality olive oils. In the areas of Collio, Colli Orientali and Carso there has been a real agricultural revolution in recent years, which has led to very convincing results. Bianchera, the best known variety, produces elegant products with a precious and unmistakable sapid-mineral vein.
The epicentre of production in Emilia-Romagna is concentrated in Romagna. On the hills overlooking Rimini, very fruity products are produced, with bitter and spicy hints, mainly from the Correggiolo and Leccino cultivars. Around Ravenna, the most widely cultivated variety is Brisighella, which offers more herbaceous and aromatic nuances.
Tuscany, with its rich heterogeneity of soils, cultivars and climates, is among the largest regions in terms of production. In general, we can say that the oils have a more greenish appearance, are intensely herbaceous, very aromatic, with spicy and bitter hints depending on the area. The main cultivars are Frantoio, Leccino and Moraiolo.
Umbria is among the oldest oil-producing regions, with a tradition that probably dates back to the Etruscan age. Along the Trasimeno route, which touches the Orvieto and Torgiano areas, there are the most important areas. Agogia, Moraiolo and San Felice are the most widespread and give characteristic and intense fruity notes, with a very harmonious profile.
In the Marche region, in addition to the classic Frantoio and Leccino cultivars, there is also the tender Ascolana. From Pesaro-Urbino to the Ancona area there is a rich production which has also seen an excellent increase in quality in recent years, with delicate and medium-bodied expressions, with notes of dried fruit and wheat fields.
The Lazio region, with a very ancient olive culture dating back to the times of the ancient Romans, is characterised by important and historic production areas. Sabina is the most famous and appreciated, where one of the first Italian DOPs was established for oils made from Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino, Raja and Carboncella.
Abruzzo has a fascinating, centuries-old tradition of oil production, encapsulated in small villages in the Pescia area. Pianella, Moscufo and, above all, Loreto Aprutino are among the most important centres, where the straight cultivar is the leader of the scene, followed by the Gentile widespread in the Chieti area. The EVOs produced are typically delicate and balanced, with green and artichoke notes. Callmewine offers a valuable selection of Abruzzo oil online.
Molise has a good cultivation of olive trees in the pre-Apennine areas, praised also by Latin writers. Several native varieties are grown, the most famous of which is the Gentile di Larino.
In Campania, the olive tree grows in almost all the territory, finding its best expression in Cilento, Beneventano, Sannio, Irpinia and the Sorrento peninsula. With modern plantings and a growing desire to revalue the region's native varieties (Pisciottana, Rotondella, Carpellese and Ravece), a wide variety of rich, aromatically clean expressions are produced.
Apulia is the leading region in terms of production, with a long production line that runs from the province of Foggia, through the Gargano, Tavoliere, Murge and Bari areas, and ends in the depths of Salento. The cultivars are many and have very different characteristics, and to summarise them in a single expression would be reductive, to say the least. The most important ones from north to south of the region are: Rotondella, Peranzana, Coratina, Ogliarola Garganica, Cima di Mola and Cellina di Nardò.
Despite its limited geographical area, Basilicata has a unique and ancient olive growing heritage. The areas around Matera and Vulture have centuries-old trees and produce good quality oil.
On the tip of the boot, in Calabria, a wide variety of indigenous types coexist. The Carolea is the most important, present in all the provinces, followed by the Cassanese, widespread in the Sibari plain, the Dolce Ottobrata, grown near Reggio Calabria, and the Tonda di Strongoli, grown in the provinces of Crotone. The expressions are intense, sweet and very aromatic, with typical spicy notes.
Sicily, in third position after Apulia and Calabria in terms of production, has a great wealth of cultivars and environmental diversity. Sicilian OEVO does not have a standard profile, but changes according to the area and the fruit, with some almond and artichoke sensations almost always found. The main cultivars are: Biancolilla, Nocellara, Cerasuola, Moresca and Tonda Iblea.
Sardinia offers the richest and most heterogeneous variety of cultivars, which find their elective cradle in very different areas. The most important are: Bosana, Tonda di Cagliari and Semidana.
With such a wide variety of cultivars and soils, even within the same region, it is very difficult to draw up a complete and exhaustive profile. Each oil will always have its own quality and expressiveness, also linked to territorial and productional aspects. Therefore, the best way to get to know this world is through experimentation and tasting. Browse the Callmewine online catalogue and discover the olive oil that best suits your taste.
Tasting and Eating
Olive oil is undoubtedly the ingredient that best enhances Mediterranean cuisine. In fact, for Italians it is an indispensable product to be consumed every day in low doses. Its job is to bring a touch of personality to a dish, without dominating the scene and overpowering the flavours and aromas. Its elegant and intense aromaticity combines harmoniously with an infinite number of dishes. Fish menus and different cuts of red meat prefer more intense and richer types, with even spicy notes; soups, main courses and salads go well with more delicate varieties, while baked goods such as pizzas and focaccias prefer oils with greater character and personality.
The sensory analysis of olive oil is similar to that of wine.
It starts with the visual profile, in which the colour and clarity are described. The former can vary from emerald tones to intense golden hues, while the latter assesses excessive cloudiness that may be a symptom of possible defects.
Different aromas emerge on the nose, varying according to the cultivar. In general, one can recognise, in a more or less evident way, vegetable notes, herbaceous nuances, aromas of dried fruit, notes of Mediterranean herbs, fruit and even hints of spices or chilli pepper.
On the palate, the balance between bitter and sweet/spicy components, structure, aromatic intensity and fluidity are evaluated.
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