Differences between Spanish and Italian olive oil
Olive oil options are many, and the olive oil section of a store can be challenging. How do you safely choose the bottle of EVOO with the best flavor and price? To begin with, like wine, it will depend mainly on the particular tastes of the consumer and the intended use. It’s a good idea to experiment with what fits in your price range.
That said, several guidelines and tips ensure that olive oil is of high quality. Many may want to use the country of origin of the olive oil, such as Spain or Italy, as the main determining factor. And since each region and variety affects the taste, you can also take into account the region of origin.
Premium extra virgin olive oil is superior and is best used raw. This is because extra virgin olive oil is the least processed and contains no chemicals or additives. Next, choose a dark colored bottle, since olive oil degenerates in contact with light. Also, avoid marketing jargon like “cold pressed” which is redundant, and “low fat” which is impossible as all oils are 100% fatty. And the organic certification is the way to go for those who want to avoid pesticides.
Identify the country and region of origin
Once you have narrowed down the sample of candidates, you can start thinking about where the olive oil came from. First of all, ignore terms like “Product of Italy“, as that can simply mean that companies bottle olives from different parts of the world in Italy. To identify the actual area of origin of the olive, look for the country initials on the back of the bottle. For example, ES for Spain and IT for Italy.
That said, companies can use different varieties of olives from various places for a batch of olive oil. The best way to ensure that your olives come from the same place is to obtain an “oil from the mill“.
Once you do that, check to see if the bottle has a harvest date. Olive oil has a limited shelf life and using the freshest olive oil possible ensures the best flavor. And they may have something to hide if there is no date on the label. However, if you have “old” olive oil left at home, use it without any problem for cooking and keep the newer bottle for raw uses.
Italy vs. Spain
Now that you know how to accurately identify where your high-quality olive oil comes from, you can start thinking about region and flavor. Regional differences do not affect the thickness of olive oil. However, olive oils from different parts of the world have remarkable flavor differences.
Spanish olive oil is very diverse, with more than 200 different varieties of olives. Spanish olive oil is characteristically golden yellow in color due to the country’s climate. Its flavor is, in general, fruitier than its Italian counterparts. Spain produces approximately 45% of the world’s olives.
Italian olive oil is typically a darker green and has a more herbaceous flavor and aroma. In particular, olives from northern Italy produce a lighter and smoother olive. In contrast to the olives from the central region, which have a much stronger flavor with significantly more herbaceous notes. Italy only produces 20% of the world’s olives, and since the demand for Italian olive oil is so high, oils with labels that say “Products of Italy” can use olives from other countries. If you’re looking for real Italian olive oil, be sure to read the label carefully.
Oro del Desierto Coupage
Pressed in the desert from a blend of organic Spanish olives, from Almería.
Rincón de la Subbética
One of the world’s best olive oils from Córdoba, Spain
A consistent front-runner on the international award-circuit, from Jaén.