Category Archives: spain

On the olive oil trail in Spain


A patchwork quilt of olives in Cazorla, Spain

For a long time I have known that Spain was producing some top-class olive oil and I have always been perplexed why it does not get the same recognition as Italian oil. In fact, Italian’s like it so much they import tons of it, blend it and repackage it as Italian oil (of course not the case with out Italian oil, which is 100% Umbrian). Well it’s time to give Spanish farmers and millers credit where credit is due.

My trip to Cazorla in the province of Jaen (Andalusia) was a big success. Andalusia is one of the most prolific and best olive growing regions in the Mediterranean. I was a little blown away by how many olive trees there are. My gracious hostess Gerardine put it well: “It is like a patchwork quilt of olive trees.” Although there are a lot of trees, this is not considered intensive planting (that is where you have the olive trees basically planted as hedges and tractors drive through to mechanically harvest the fruit). Olive cultivation in Cazorla is large-scale but still applies a number of traditional growing and harvesting methods.


A healthy looking picual olive tree. Most trees are grown in a three-trunk formation.

Most of the trees in this area are the piqual cultivar, which withstand cold winters and adapts well to most soil conditions. This hearty tree is a good producer and its oil is prized for its full-bodied flavour and because it keeps longer than most oils. Sprinkled amidst this see of picual are a few Royal de Cazorla trees: this is the native cultivar that I mentioned in my last post. In contrast to picual, Royal oil is very smooth and does not keep as long. It is quite common to see oil that is a mix of these two cultivars: the result is the best of both worlds.


A funky old Royal de Cazorla tree.

Olive oil adventures in Spain


After much consideration, I decided that my money would be better spent on a practical education in olive oil rather than on a professional certification course (at least for the time being). I have decided to head to the province of Jaen in Andalusia in Spain.

A few years ago Charles Buttler from the Olive Oil Gazette told me about a native cultivar that was being cultivated less and less in his part of Spain. Charles explained that the Royal de Cazorla is hard to harvest and ends up costing farmers more money than they can possibly get for the oil. It is now mostly grown by family farms because of the high labour costs. You have to know I love all things that are quirky, difficult and unique, so I just have to go and see what the Royal is all about. Mainly, I am curious to taste this oil and see what can be done to help maintain biodiversity in this part of the world.

I am convinced that in Spain they are making some of the best olive oil out there and I want to some! Hopefully I will be able to get you some too.

My ticket is booked and I am off to Cazorla at the start of May to meet Charles and discover the olive culture of Cazorla. Stay tuned for my olive oil adventures in Spain.