In March, I attended the World Olive Oil Council exhibit in Madrid, Spain. Most people are aware that Spain is the largest producer of olive oil in the world – roughly 45% of the world’s production. I was interested in attending this year’s exhibit for two main reasons:
- Identify a local Spanish extra virgin olive oil (“EVOO”) that would fit well with Gourmet Living’s line of premium extra virgin olive oils;
- Discover what Spain – and other countries – were doing to combat fraud in the industry.
Needless to say, spending a few days in glorious Madrid wasn’t bad either.
While the consumption of olive oil has largely been a “Mediterranean thing,” people all over the world are beginning to recognize the nutritional benefits of extra virgin olive oil. Well over 90% of both the production and consumption of these oils occurs in Mediterranean countries, but Spanish producers are searching for ways to entice American consumers to use higher quality oils.
Sadly, much of the olive oils sold in U.S. supermarkets and in food specialty shops and labeled “extra virgin olive oil” is hardly “EVOO” and contains inferior oils and – in many cases – is adulterated with other vegetable oils. A recent “60 Minutes” show indicated that the Mafia had taken control of large segments of oil production in Sicily and other parts of Italy.
While certainly true, the Mafia’s role in adulterated EVOO is far less significant than the questionable practices of large producers, particularly Spanish conglomerates which have purchased Italian brands to market suspect oils to U.S. and European consumers.
While the Italians have certainly taken vigorous steps to confiscate and destroy adulterated olive oils, Spanish authorities have taken longer to react. Nevertheless, I found many small producers genuinely concerned that demand for their high quality products would be undermined by the predatory practices of large conglomerates if allowed to continue.
U.S. Olive Oil Production
It is not surprising that olive oil production in the United States has grown significantly in recent years. Quoting from a New York Times article that I have not been able to locate, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reports that US. production in the U.S. has grown from 1,000 tons in 2007 to over 10,000 tons in 2013 (with a 25% increase in production from 2012 levels). As more fruit-bearing trees come on line, U.S. production will only continue to increase.
Aside from the growth in production, the quality of U.S. olive oil has also improved dramatically. In a recent “tasting” of 671 bottles of olive oils from 25 countries, U.S. producers won 38 awards (Spain – 73, followed by Italy with 43). Clearly, this is a major accomplishment considering that olive oil production in the U.S. is still in its infancy.
The Picual olive is the primary olive used in the production of Spanish oils (the Arbequino olive also features prominently in Spanish oils, but produces a more delicately flavored oil). The Picual olive produces that distinctive “peppery” aftertaste in the back of the throat, but also is treasured because of its long shelf life.
In fact, Gourmet Living selected extra virgin olive oil harvested from the Picual olive for our California “EVOO.” We believe that this is an exceptional oil produced domestically with far more credible controls than currently exist in Spain. Normally retailing for $24.50, you can purchase Gourmet Living’s extra virgin olive oil at 20% off by using the code GROW20 when you checkout.
Why wait? Taste this wonderful California EVOO at a very special price.