The large number of olive varieties is due to genotype modifications or oscillation of the varietal characteristics due to environmental conditions.
The difference in taste between olive oil depends:
- on the olive variety used to make it.
- different weather conditions when cultivated.
Learning about the sensory characteristics of each variety will give you an idea of the resulting aromas and flavours.
Learn more about olive varietals:
Picual is the most important olive variety in the world and is the most widely cultivated variety in Spain. 50% of the virgin olive oil produced here is obtained from the Picual variety.
- Picual olives are most widely cultivated in Jaén, provinces of Córdoba, Granada, and part of Cuidad Real, Málaga and Badajoz.
- The Picual tree is strong
- Adjusts to a wide range of soils and climatic conditions: resistant to cold and wet soils
- Slightly tolerant to soils containing lime or calcium and has relatively high salinity tolerance.
- Its fruit ripening takes place during the second week of November until the third of December.
- Oil yield is high (can reach up to 27%), it has a high level of stability and a high oleic acid content. It also offers high resistance to rancidity due to the natural antioxidants it contains. Its high content of polyphenols, makes it the most stable oil in the market.
From an organoleptic point of view, we should differentiate between those oils cultivated in the plain and in the mountain.
- Plain oils have oils with great body, normally bitter, with a woody flavour.
- Mountain oils tend to be warmer but with a fresh and pleasant flavour.
- This variety is protected in the DO of Mágina, Sierra Segura, in Priego de Córdoba, Sierra de Cazorla and Montes de Granada.
- Its area of influence extends through Andalusia, particularly in the east of the province of Seville, southern Córdoba and the entire north of the province of Malaga (16% of the Andalusian olive). It is also known in Andalucía under the name Lucentino, because of the metallic reflections of its leaves when reflected by the sun.
- Hojiblanca olives produces both black table olives due to the firm texture of its flesh, and for oil production .
- The fruits ripening is rather late, from late November to late December and once ripe the fruit is resistant to detachment, making its collection difficult.
- Its oil yield is low, averaging between 17-19%.
- It has a very balanced fatty acid composition with relatively lower saturated acids than the rest of the oils of other varieties.
- The oxidation stability is not high and it is recommended to keep these oils in the dark and without excessive oxygenation during storage.
- From an organoleptic point of view, they present a great range of flavours. They are sweet at the beginning of the tasting, with a fresh grass fruity aroma and a slight bitterness of green fruit and other fruits which can resemble a fruit salad. Light and spicy in the throat with an almond aftertaste.
- La picudo o picuda, also known as carrasqueña of Córdoba, is surely the most emblematic variety of Cordoba and is protected by the OD of Baena and Priego de Córdoba. In the village of Luque it is called ” pajarero”. It is named this way because it is said that its oil is so sweet that when its fruit is ripening the birds peck it. This variety is widespread in the provinces of Cordoba, Granada, Málaga and Jaén.
- The fruit ripening period is between the fourth week of November and the end of December
- Its oil yield is high, without reaching picual values, but with figures close to 20%.
- Picudo olives are also used as table olives.
- The organoleptic characteristics of the variety Picudo are extraordinary, with an excellent balance and sweetness and no harsh flavours. Sometimes you can taste light flavours and aromas that remind of exotic fruits as well as apple and “almendrados”. Because of its fatty acid composition, the Picudo olive is considered a delicate oil that can oxidate, because of this it is complemented with other varieties such as Picual.
Lechin de Sevilla:
- This range straddles the provinces of Seville, Córdoba, Cadiz, Malaga and Huelva. Its name is due to the whitish colour of its flesh and its oil must (a mixture of vegetable water and oil).
- It is a vigorous variety. It is well able to withstand drought and cold winter and adapts to limestone and poor soils. However, its oil content (fatty acid) is not very high, around 18%.
- From an organoleptic point of view, it is a vegetable flavoured oil, with medium bitterness and a green almond aftertaste.
- Usually no single Lechin varietal oils are marketed, but it is used to complement other varieties like hojiblanca and picual.
- This variety is typical of the Axarquia area, in the southeast of the province of Malaga. This area is in the process of obtaining the Denomination of Origin “Axarquía. “
- These oils have a very pleasant sweet fruity flavour, and are neither bitter nor spicy.
- Its composition makes it necessary to protect them from heat, light and air for better conservation. In Malaga you can find monovarietal Verdial, but normally they are mixed with the variety hojiblanca resulting in a perfect blend with medium stability.
- Is among one of the most famous Spanish varieties. It originates and is named by the Arbeca, a town in the region of Les Garrigues Lleida. It is said that King James I brought it to Catalonia Mallorca, and one of his subjects, the Lord of Arbeca, planted this variety in his fiefdom. Others believe it came to the peninsula through the Templars.
- It spans the provinces of Tarragona (DO Siurana) and Lleida (DO Les Garrigues) both in the community of Catalonia. It is also present in the provinces of Zaragoza, Huesca, Teruel. The oils that are protected under the OD of Aragon allow up to 20% of Arbequina. Lately, its cultivation has spread in Andalusia.
- The Arbequina olives are small, but highly valued for their early entry into production.
- They have an average maturity period between the second week of December and the second week of January
- High productivity and good oil yield, about 20.5% of oil,that ranks it among the varieties with higher oil extraction rate. Read also for more information extraction process.
- These oils have fresh and fruity aroma that reminds of almonds and other fruits. Not bitter nor sour. Very smooth entry. They could be described as harmonious features, soft, light, delicate, sweet almond and almost always with an aroma of ripe fruit (pureed fruit and apple), in which exotic aromas sometimes peep.
- At the start of the season, when the olives are still green, it gives light green oil, a bit bitter, spicey and sweet. Because of their composition they are more delicate than other varieties to oxidation and once packed it is very important to keep them protected from light and heat.
Cornicabra or ergot:
- According to the number of grown hectares, this variety is the second in importance, but the third in production. Originally from Mora de Toledo, its growing area covers the provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real in Castilla la Mancha. Its name comes from the characteristic horn shape of its fruit. Also called ergot, is the main variety of Montes de Toledo.
- It has a high resistance to drought, frost, cold winter, which indicates that although it is a Mediterranean tree it has adapted perfectly to a continental climate.
- When it is totally ripe it shows an intense purple colouring.
- Oil yield is about 19 %.
- The oil is fruity and aromatic, and a bit spicey and bitter. When it is obtained from more mature olives at the end of the harvest, its flavour and texture reminds of exotic fruits such as avocado. Cornicabra oils have a remarkable balance between sweet entry, bitter greens and spicy medium intensity.
- The oils are stable due to its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids.
- This variety is typical of Aragón. Its area of cultivation extends from the provinces of Teruel Logroño and the Ebro Valley to the province of Tarragona, even in the Balearic Islands. It occupies nearly 85% of the regions of Aragón Teruel, spreading through the lands of Alcaniz, Calaceite Valderrobres, Castellote and the Serrania de Montalbán, located on the border between Aragon and Catalonia.
- It is one of the oldest olive trees in Spain. It is of great magnitude, although its rooting ability is low, which forces grafting as a primary method of propagation.
- In fact, its name appears to be derivated from the Catalan word “empelt” meaning graft, as this variety was grafted onto older ones. Its leaves are dark green and shiny and its olives have a jet black hue.
- These olives oil yield is about 18.3%.
- The fruits have an early ripening, from the first week of November to the first of December.
- This variety known in Portugal as “negrinha y azeitera” .
- This olive varietals grown in Upper Extremadura (Sierra de Gata, Las Hurdes Jerte Valley and Vera). It occupies 95% of the olive groves area with protected designation of origin, – currently in process, “Gata Hurdes”.
- It is used for both table olives and mills.
- This is a dense oil, slightly sweet in which bitterness and piquancy are beautifully balanced. It is characteristically intensely fruity, with pronounced aromas of banana, apple and newly cut grass.
Badajoz or Moorish Verdial:
- This variety is very resistant to drought and stretches across the province of Badajoz, Baja Extremadura
- Occupying 53% of the olive groves of the Badajoz region of “Tierra de Barros”.
- In Portugal, it occupies the Alentejero area and the Algarve.
- The verdial is used for both table olives and for olive oil mills.
- High oil yield around 22%.
- These oils have a fruity taste and are slightly bitter and spicy.
- The main variety of Spanish Levante, whose name refers to its light colour.The best known oils come from the regions of “Sierra del Espadán” and Alicante´s mountains.
- It is very productive, but sensitive to changes in temperature and harsh winters.
- This oil is very aromatic and with a high level of linoleic acid.
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