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The Mecca of Olive Oil - Priego de Cordoba
18 June 2015





In the south of the province of Cordoba lies the National Park Sierras Subbéticas. The steeply sloping terrain rises up above beautiful narrow valleys and looking over the valleys is the idyllic Andalucian town called Priego de Cordoba. Nowadays Priego de Cordoba could easily be considered “The Mecca” of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The proportion of premium olive oil producers working in this region is unlike any other in the world, so much so that it is renowned worldwide for it’s quality.


“D.O Priego de Cordoba” is a “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) that guarantees top quality olive oil and prides itself in producing exceptional oils and maintaining very strict levels of control. The protected region spans 29,600 hectares encompassing four municipalities Almedinilla, Carcabuey, Fuente Tójar y Priego de Córdoba. The certified D.O Priego de Cordoba extra virgin olive oils from this region have amassed over 400 prizes across the globe. In recent years the oils from Priego de Cordoba have been in all the top ten lists, awards and competitions worldwide and not surprisingly the town hosts “ The World Congress for Olive Oil Sensory Analysis” where you will find the finest olive oil experts from around the world, amongst them my friend Juan Ramon Izquierdo, head of the Tasting Panel for the Ministry of Agriculture here in Spain, an authentic “guru” and leader in his field.


The town is slightly off the beaten track but it is easily reached, as it is just a one-hour drive from Granada, Cordoba, Malaga or Jaen. So for those of you that live in Andalucia I highly recommend a trip there to do some Olive Oil tourism and stock up with some of the finest olive oil Spain has to offer, it’s on your doorstep! Many of the Almazaras (mills) offer guided tours and tasting sessions for groups so if you can get a group together I would waste any more time! Three of my favourite producers from the region are Manuel Montes Marin who produces the brand “Portico de la Villa” which is absolutely exceptional, Mueloliva which I discovered after they produced an exceptional oil in the harvest 2011/12 under their brand "Venta del Baron" which I have written about on many occasions (available in Carrefour) and lastly but not least, by any means, Almazaras Subbética which produce “Rincon de la Subbética” declared the best extra virgin olive oil in the world 2011-12 due to the vast amounts of accolades it accumulated over that season. However, all three oils have continued to win prizes and produce great harvests year in and year out.


Portico de Villa                                              Venta del Baron                                         Rincon de la Subbetica



To be honest you will be hard fetched to find a “normal” olive oil in this region. If it carries this logo on the back of the bottle :



You can be sure it will be a great olive oil. The Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O.) of Priego de Cordoba exclusively covers extra virgin olive oils made with the Hojiblanca, Picudo and Picual varieties. These oils have multiple culinary uses as they are high in polyphenols and thus have a longer shelf life, meaning their flavour (organoleptic qualities) will also last much longer, so if you are buying olive oil from the previous seasons harvest, which is what you will still find in the supermarkets, I would suggest these varieties, as opposed to Arbequina for example, which will have lost most of it’s “notes” after maybe eight months of being bottled. These varieties are especially indicated for dressing salads, fried food, roasts, baking and confectionary, pretty much anything apart from sauces, as they are particularly fruity and herbaceous in flavour.


The rugged and mountainous terrain of the Sierras Subbéticas national park enjoys a unique microclimate between 700m and 1000m above sea level, characterised by high rainfall and large temperature variations. It is in this setting that, through a combination of natural selection and traditional methods, the legendary olive trees have developed a peculiar hardiness and resistance to icy temperatures enabling them to withstand the passage of time and bear quality fruits year in and year out.







The unique setting of rolling hills and olive tree mountains gives the town of Priego de Cordoba a very special feel and is quite simply a charming tourist destination. Priego de Córdoba has an abundance of monuments and sights: exploring its hidden corners you will be seduced by the charm and delight of this wonderful Andalusian town, the cradle of Spanish baroque in forms of fountains, churches and palaces. As well as an Arabic fortress Priego de Cordoba is home to one of the most idyllic historic towns in all of Andalucía, el “Barrio de la Villa” which was given the official title of Historic Centre of Priego in 1972. Its roots go back directly to medieval and Moorish times, and it is part of the “family” of the most typically Andalucian “barrios” which include the Albaicín in Granada or the Judería in Córdoba.









The narrow winding whitewashed streets offer a perfect blend of peace and beauty; a picture of tranquillity, painted with sunlight, flowers and stone. The town if peppered with beautiful stately homes and buildings. One which particularly stand outs is the Carnicierías Reales (Royal Butchers) which is a renaissance building from the XVI century open to the public. This was the slaughterhouse and meat market in the sixteenth century, designed by Francisco del Castillo. The entrance is built in a Mannerist style with an Italian influence. So what can I say, even if olive oil isn’t up your street, Priego de Cordoba is well worth a visit and who knows if you try the olive oil straight off the press, I’m sure you’ll be hooked for ever.




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Other popular articles by Ian Mackay ©

Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Introduction-Part 1


Go to article: The World of Olive Oil- Olive Oil Categories-Part 2


Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - How to recognise an authentic extra virgin olive oil - Part 3


Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Olive Oil Tasting - Part 4


Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - True Virginity - Part 5


Go to article: Can I fry with Oilve Oil?


Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - The perfect Crime Scene - Part 6


Go to article: The World of Olive Oil - Harvesting Olives - Part 7


Like 0        Published at 12:09   Comments (12)

How Extra Virgin Olive Oil affects Cholesterol
05 June 2015

Firstly we need to understand what cholesterol really is. It is a waxy steroid of fat contained in foods of animal origin. It is not the vegetable oil or the olive oil that gives you cholesterol, however it is important to understand how it affects your cholesterol levels. Palm oil and coconut oil carry saturated fats, which are the worst and will raise your cholesterol (these fats are used to fry peanuts, crisps and many other snacks). Although cholesterol is important and necessary for human health, diets containing a large amount of animal fats raise blood cholesterol level, which is one of the main risk factors related to cardiovascular disease and damaged arteries.


Fats (triglycerides) and cholesterol are transported in the blood by lipoproteins. The cholesterol attached to low-density lipoproteins [very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL)] is atherogenic, with means that it is basically damaging to the artery walls. If this continues it may lead to an acute heart attack. This cholesterol is known as "bad cholesterol". However, the cholesterol bound to high-density lipoproteins (known as HDL-cholesterol) is called "good cholesterol" because it provides protection against cardiovascular diseases. The high-density lipoproteins remove free cholesterol from the cells, then esterifying it and transporting it to the liver where it is eliminated with bile.



Extra Virgin Olive oil lowers the levels of total blood cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides. At the same time it does not alter the levels of HDL-cholesterol and often it may even raise them. This is one of the major differences it has with sunflower oil. Sunflower oil does have some benefits, such as omega 6 but it will degrade much quicker with heat and will reduce the good cholesterol in your body. Extra virgin olive oil plays a protective role and prevents the formation of fatty patches, which stimulates the elimination of the low-density lipoproteins.


The beneficial effect of olive oil consumption with regard to cardiovascular disease has been demonstrated through extensive research. It is proven to have a significant effect in primary prevention, where it reduces the risk of developing the disease, and in secondary prevention, where it prevents recurrence after a first coronary illness. So all in all it is the best oil for cooking with. However be sure that it is extra virgin and not just simple “olive oil” which is refined oil, as all the vitamins and antioxidants have been evaporated and removed by the refining process and won’t be as resistant to heat as extra virgin will be.


Like 1        Published at 19:25   Comments (6)

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