Olive oil has a naturally spiced flavour that is obtained by the pressing of a fresh fruit – the olive. There are many factors that are decisive for the quality, the taste and the colour of the oil. Only in Italy you have 395 different types of olives but also the latitude, the climate, the season, the quality of the soil and the harvesting technique play their roll in the final result.
Generally the olive tree prefers a balanced climate without sudden variation of temperature. The soil should be preferably rich of calcium and well drained which makes the Mediterranean countries ideal for olive tree growth.
The olive it’s formed during that change that takes part between spring and the end of summer when the flowers (olive gems) carry fruits. Olive is formed by a shell (epicarpo), a pulp (mesocarpo) and a core (endocarpo) with a seed inside.
The olive ripens slowly and changes in size and colour from green to red to dark violet when it’s finally totally ripe at the end of November. When the olives are partly green and partly violet it starts the harvesting that goes on until the end of January.
To harvest olives by hand (brucatura) it’s still the best technique, but also the most expensive, since you can keep the olives in perfect conditions and obtain the best oil out of them.
There are other techniques like the “bacchiatura” that requires the shaking of trees with the help of sticks or machines so that the fruits fall down on a net streched under the tree. The worst technique isthe “natural fall” of the olives: it leads to bad quality oil.
Olivese harvested olives are transported to the press where are stored in layers of maximum 10 cm. in a airy room. Later the olives will be washed to rinse them off the soil.
The pressing starts when olives go through the lathe, classically made of stone. The mass obtained it’s mixed and pressed over and over. The must obtained will be later centrifuged to separate oil from water.
Olives are made for 20-25% of oil, 30-35% of water and carbohydrates, proteins, organic acids and enzymes.
The different phases during the pressing are decisive in the process to achieve a high quality oil. After that it’s possible to classify an oil as “extra vergine” (extra virgin)
The way olives are pressed, conditions and the temperature during the settling are some of the many factors that give finally the oil its characteristic quality.
The oil coming for the pressing is divided in three categories, depending on its acidity and organic nature:
◾ Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva
◾ Olio Vergine di Oliva
◾ Olio Lampante (requires an extra refinement)
In the lathe lie also remnants of the pressing and olive cores that are called Sansa.
According to the latest laws an “Extra virgin” oil needs to have an acidity under 1%. It’s flavour can be fruity, sweet, bitter, strong or delicate, all depending on the origin of the olives.
Filtration and bottling
When the oil has passed the organic tests, has been filtered through a fine powder made of fossil meal to clean it up from impurities and traces of water.
After the filtration and additional analysis, the oil is bottled in glass under condition of maximum hygiene. Finally the bottles are labelled and handed out to retailers.