Cold pressed olive oil. Remember when you hunted it down? Looked frantically to get it for that recipe! Smugly nodded, yes it is cold pressed. Well …it seems we were all sold a pup. Apparently, according to good authority, it was a method last used by the then Arabs in 711. Yes that’s right the Gregorian 8th century.
My good authority is the owner, David Gallarado of D.Olivia, a beautiful specialist olive oil shop in Marbella town. As I perch on a stool with an array of dishes with oil in front of me, I feel slightly cheated. It isn’t wine! Mind you given it was 11am on a Saturday morning this was probably a good thing. My fellow olive oil tasters probably thought the same.
Not knowing what to expect, David cleverly asked questions to engage us in his talk on olive oil. The most surprising piece of information is the fact Spain is the biggest producer of olive oil. A staggering 55% of production compared to the 9% produced by Italy. Interestingly Italy is the major purchaser of Spain’s olive oil. Suddenly, it dawned on me, like the cold press scam, the marketing of olive oil is more dynamic than our real understanding or appreciation of it.
The next known fact to be firmly dispelled is the notion that there is any issue when cooking with olive oil. A view supported by this article here from the Huffington Post. As David explained, olive oil is juice extracted from the olive. It is very stable, has good properties and can be used 4 to 5 times when cooking with it. No need to pour excess down the sink instead put it in to a jar or container to reuse. By now, I’m feeling fully equipped to be an olive oil expert, an excellent recycler and a champion supporter of the water companies.
Then we really get down to the business of grading detail and taste. Whilst the grading of olive oil is straightforward; there are three qualities of olive oil: extra virgin, virgin and olive oil. Extra virgin is the best grade due to an acidity level under 0.8 degrees. This means there is the minimum level of fruitiness in this grade of oil. Virgin falls in between 0.8 to 2 degrees implying it is not so bad in taste that it require refining; but plain old olive oil is the stuff that is over 2 degrees and is not allowed for consumption, unless it is refined. It then gets about 15% of virgin olive oil combined with it to give it some colour and smell.
Back to the tasting of the oils in front of us. In this respect our novice approach is obvious, ‘fruity’ is our best offering on anything when asked to describe the taste. Which fruit? Um, pretty stumped. However, the nose and the palate begins to improve and before you know it we are tasting some olive oils to die for and can tell which vegetables and fruit might have influence the taste or our nose. After the hard core method of sipping and slurping, the mood is relaxed with bread. The olive oil and bread combination hits the divine button!
Tasting olive oil is a wonderful way to engage with something probably taken for granted, and I can now make wiser choices, in my selection of oils, when food shopping. Afterwards we enjoyed browsing the shop which has so many delightful little touches and great products to buy. D.Olivia is an incredible find in Marbella and well worth a visit. It was thanks to good local knowledge that it was discovered and it is a reminder to always get recommendations when staying at a good hotel.
Kate Battrick was travelling with Olivia Posca and Ben Burgess, Travel Counsellors and were guests at Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spa Marbella. The olive oil tasting at D.Olivia was organised by the now retired Sales Director Manuel Jimenez.