The Top Olive Oil Regions of Europe & What Makes EVOO Fabulous
Olive oil is an ingredient used with some frequency in North America, but in Europe is a staple to most meals. It’s no surprise then that several areas in Europe produce much of the world’s (best) olive oil. EVOO is even sipped out of a cup yet more frequently used for dipping crusty bread!
The combination of ideal growing conditions and widespread love of it make Europe a prime destination for olive oil lovers. However, Europe isn’t the only place that produces great olive oil! If you’re looking for high quality and delicious tasting olive oil in any part of the world, there are a few locations that you’ll want to check the labels for.
Benefits of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Not only is olive oil delicious, it’s a great addition to a Mediterranean diet. Olive oil is a healthy fat packed with powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Incorporating high quality olive oil into your diet can help you prevent health issues like stroke, heart disease, diabetes and maybe even Alzheimer’s disease.
Along with the many health benefits that olive oil can provide, it also offers a very tasty snack option. From dipping your bread into flavoured or seasoned olive oils to creating dips and recipes featuring the liquid, including olive oil in your diet is a great choice.
What makes olive oil high quality?
Real olive oil can vary quite a bit in colour and flavour for many different reasons.
The kind of olives used, how they are processed and whether they were harvested early or late in the harvest season can all affect the look and taste of olive oil.
FIRST COLD PRESSED - is THE way to make extra virgin olive oil of the finest quality. This holds true from a freshness, aroma and taste perspective, but also to maximize the health and nutritional benefits. It's pressed once, naturally and without adding any heat to extract the oil. In sum, first cold pressed olive oil naturally extracts the oil from the olives without any processing! The result? Brilliant aroma and unaltered flavour!
LOCAL - Ensure you get the highest quality olive oil that you can is by looking for producers that harvest, press and package the oil all in the same area. This can help ensure freshness is maintained through the whole process, leading to higher quality olive oil than you might find otherwise.
Top Olive Oil Regions in the World
With over 350 different varieties of olives, Italy is easily one of the top destinations for olive oil production. Many olive oils that come out of Italy are even recognized at international quality competitions, so you know you’re buying something of high quality if you find authentic Italian olive oil.
Olive tree growth and oil production in Italy is almost entirely in the hands of independent farmers rather than big companies, allowing the industry to hold onto its centuries old farming methods.
Most olive oil in the country that produces the second highest volume in the world will come out of the southern regions of Italy like Sicily, Sardinia and Basilicata.
While nearly every region in the country produces olive oil, most of it comes out of the south. Spain leads the world in olive oil production by volume with more than 40% of it coming from a region in northeastern Andalusia. This area is also responsible for about 20% of the world’s export, so these guys definitely know what they’re doing!
While Spain produces a number of different olives, there are 4 main varieties that are most common. The country’s climate is ideal for growing olives and their processes mean that the olives go from the field to the bottle in only a few hours time, meaning the oil is incredibly fresh.
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Olive oil is a staple of the local cuisine in Greece. Producing primarily extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), Greece uses nearly 60% of it’s overall land mass to produce olives and olive oil in over 2800 mills countrywide. Most olives in Greece are named after the regions that they’re grown in, with the Peloponnese region producing the most.
With olive groves ranging in age from 100 years to over 1000 years, Portugal has an increasing reputation in olive oil production. The oil produced in Portugal is known to be high quality and full of fresh and fruity flavours, making it a very popular choice.
Morocco is home to a high-quality olive called the Picholine olive, which is often considered a caviar-like variation. With over 80% of it’s olive oil produced with this olive, the country is definitely a destination for olive oil lovers.
While production levels aren’t very high in France, the olive oil it does produce is of extremely high quality. This allows the country to stand out when we’re looking at the top olive oil regions in the world.
Located in North Africa, Tunisia’s main agricultural export is olive oil and they ship it to countries like Spain, France, Portugal and the USA.
Also not in Europe, of course, and relatively new in the olive oil production game, the USA has been producing olive oil for about 150 years. This country actually consumes the most olive oil in the world outside of Europe so it makes sense that they’d get into the production side of things. Most US olive oil is produced in states that are warm year-round like Hawaii, California, Oregon, Georgia, Texas and Florida.
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Extra Virgin Olive Oil: A Global Love Affair
We are united by food and pure, beautiful extra virgin olive oil is a epicurean delight. Anyone wishing to bring the elements of a Mediterranean diet to their home knows high quality olive oil is the basis for healthful eating.
In fact, Italians - who boast among the highest life expectancy in the world - use olive oil in place of butter (and certainly don't consume margarine) and other, more processed, oils. Yes, it's used for cooking/frying and especially straight from the bottle on salads, pastas, pizzas...on everything to add richness and flavours.
No matter where you live in the world, there's a world of regionally produced olive oils from various countries and regions of the world that await!