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WORLD OF OLIVE OIL - Introduction- PART 1
01 October 2012 @ 14:15

This will be the first in a series of posts that I will be writing about the world of olive oil. One of Spain’s major assets, it is a fascinating world of taste, skill, honesty and lies. With the olive harvest just around the corner and being my major passion and hobby since I have been in Spain, I thought it apt to share my experiences with you. No better phrase applies to olive oil than “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover”, no matter where it is from.


  Yes, Spain, is great at wine it is also great at many other things but when it comes to olive oil it is by far the best in the world. I was very surprised to read not so long ago that 50% of the public interviewed in a UK survey carried out by the Spanish Olive Oil Association, didn’t know that Spain was an olive oil producer. They only mentioned Italy and Greece. Well this is very much the case with most Spanish produce as they haven’t been able to earn their righteous place in the market. 


Spain is in fact the largest olive oil producer in the world, producing over 44% of the world’s olive oil. So it is the Spanish harvest that sets the global pricing for olive oil and every September the world looks at Spain to see how the olives are developing just before the imminent harvest season. In fact a large percentage of Italian Brands and Greek Brands actually fill their bottles with Spanish olive oil, as do the French with Spanish wine. So the chances are you have all tried Spanish olive oil even though you thought it was Italian!


Yes, every year the Italians come over to Spain to negotiate their purchases for the season, as they are unable, by a long way, to meet international demand with national production, the same goes for Greece. So why has Spain not been able to position itself properly in the market? Well really it’s quite simple, it was always easier to sell bulk to the Italians, white label brands and the food industry around the world than actually build brands. However this is changing, over the past five years or so Spain is starting to make head way into the branded Olive oil market, especially gourmet brands, as countries start to catch on to the “Mediterranean diet fever” and start to look for more specialised products.

The world of olive oil at a first glance appears to be a simple world. You grow olives, you press them and you get olive oil. Well in essence it is that simple but it is also very complicated and even more so to understand what really is olive oil and what isn’t.  How do I know what I’m getting? This isn’t sunflower oil, there are nine different classes of olive oil. 


1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

2. Virgin Olive Oil

3. Virgin Olive Oil “Corriente”

4. Virgin Olive Oil “Lampante” 

5. Refined Olive Oil

6. Olive Oil

7. Crude Pomace Olive Oil

8. Refined Pomace Olive Oil

9. Pomace Olive Oil


Only number 1 and 2 are apt for direct human consumption but unfortunately all can be found eventually at some point in the food chain, once refined, filtered and treated many are mixed with a percentage of Extra virgin olive oil and then sold on as that, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which it is not. The Italians have even been found guilty of using walnut oil to dilute their Virgin Olive oil and make it go further. It adds no taste so you would never know. It is not just the Italians but the Spanish as well, when regulations and fines are not strict enough and big bucks come into play, morality tends to take a side step all over the world. 

So how do you know what you are getting, well it is quite complicated and I will go into it in more detail on another post but one simple filter is price. If it is cheap you can be certain you are not getting 100% the real thing. Ask your self the question how is it possible that 1 litre of Olive oil can cost the same as a cheap bottle of wine? It costs a minimum of 4 times as much to make 1 litre of olive oil than it does to make 1 litre of wine. That just takes into consideration the amount of olives needed, not the rest of the farming process. From 100kg of grapes you can get approximately 80 litres of wine and from 100kg of Olives you can get a maximum of 20 litres of olive oil. Simple maths! You can buy a litre of white brand Extra Virgin Olive Oil for €2,50. It is literally impossible for this to be real authentic extra virgin olive oil, no matter how much you buy in bulk. The average price for extra virgin olive oil to the cooperative farmer is around 2 euros and then the mill has to make it’s cut, packaging, distribution, advertising and so on come into play after that, so I can assure you they are not loosing money, so what are they doing? The big brands are diluting their olive oil with other lower grade oils but maintaining it within the parameters of acidity for that class of olive oil at the time of packaging. But of course as the packaging and storage of these big brand olive oils is completely inadequate, the chances are by the time it hits your table it has completely lost all of it’s organoleptic and nutritional properties. So much for the Mediterranean diet!


This isn’t a problem just for foreign countries but the vast majority of the Mediterranean population aren’t aware of this either. In general they don’t have a clue what a good nutritional olive oil  is and how to identify it. So what I intend to do with this series of posts is help inform you all how to find, identify and understand what an authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil is, because once you have discovered it there is no going back and you can truly say you have found “liquid gold” and rest assured the purest of them all is here in Spain.


Like 0


Patricia (Campana) said:
01 October 2012 @ 13:53

Well, it always boils down to the same thing. You get what you pay for. No such thing as "bueno, bonito y barato".

We get our olive oil via some Spanish friends whose family obtain it direct from the press. So do quite a few other people.

foxenburg said:
01 October 2012 @ 18:01

Enjoyable reading. You've got a typo - So what I pretend to do with this series of posts - I think you mean intend. Hope you do, anyway. I look forward to reading more.

eos_ian said:
01 October 2012 @ 18:45

Thank's for that! That's my Spanish coming through, everyday it's more dominant! "Pretender" in Spanish is "intend" in English :)

TJ222 said:
06 October 2012 @ 09:17

I Look forward very much to the bit about how to find the genuine stuff and what price i have to pay for it.

Thanks very much.

Max in the UK said:
06 October 2012 @ 11:11

That was really interesting. Thank you. I look forward to hearing your recommended brands of 100% olive oil in due course and I'll seek them out!

Jack J said:
06 October 2012 @ 14:39

I have thought of emigrating to Spain with the intent of purchasing enough Olive producing property to eke out a minimal living.... is this possible?

Heather said:
06 October 2012 @ 15:27

Thanks for the info - look forward to the continuation.

eos_ian said:
06 October 2012 @ 17:31

Thank you all for your comments! My next post (part 3) will be posted shortly and will help you identify a genuine olive oil. I am glad you have all found it as interesting as I find it. I'll keep posting and please keep reading and leaving your comments, it's very much appreciated!! Thanks :)

eos_ian said:
06 October 2012 @ 17:43

Hi jack J, in response to your question "is it possible?" the answer is : Absolutely.
There are many determining factors related however, as to how much you can earn and variables that will give you more security or less if it ends up being your "bread and butter". There are a hundred and one ways of making money from olives it just depends on your income expectations and how much you are prepared to invest, if you are looking for land which is giving fruit already or you want to start from scratch planting your own trees. But is it possible, very much so. Not once has olive oil been sold below it's production cost by the farmers. Even in tough times they are making profits, the amount of profit depends on : Nº of trees, variety,soil, oil production ratio, water, plague control,treatment of the trees during growth, the list is endless. The better the quality the more you earn. Quality olive oil is knowledge, not just soil and weather.

Earthshaker said:
06 October 2012 @ 18:26


peter of burjulu said:
06 October 2012 @ 21:13

look forward to more. we have 5 trees. not much but as we only get a free bottle via our local picker we need to know how to recognise the genuine article when shopping.

Cindy said:
07 October 2012 @ 07:48

Interesting article. I always thought Italy or Greece were biggest producers of olive oil. Spanish olive oil is very hard to get where I live in Newfoundland , Canada but I do buy it when I can. Perhaps we need to educate the whole world on the quality of the Spanish product.

Do you suggest that here in Spain we buy directly from the farmers?

Sam said:
07 October 2012 @ 13:56

Do hope you give brand names and where to buy.

eos_ian said:
07 October 2012 @ 18:38

Hi Cindy, buying directly from the producers is certainly a great way of buying olive oil, however that have their tricks too. I will go into that in my next blog. However if you have a good relationship with your local mill "almazarra" the chances are you will get extra virgin, if they are a serious mill. I have seen mills that would make you want to run and others that make you think you are in an operating theatre. But generally the smaller the mill, the better your chances, as they tend to finish and sell their stock every year. Look out for my next post and I'll give you the ins and outs to know if your local mill is serious out it's work.
As you said, Greece and Italy have dominated the market. Apart from Spain's marketing incompetence it is also due to the larger population of Italian and Greek emigrants around the world demanding products from their home land. However, even the Romans rated olive oil from Spain as a more precious oil than the native Italian oils. Hence the large amount of trees planted along the Via Augusta, which served as a "commercial highway" back to Rome.

eos_ian said:
07 October 2012 @ 18:48

Shortly I will write an article on recommendations and where to buy. But before you buy, one should have clear what type of olive oil you are looking for and for what purpose you are going to use it.

Thanks everyone for your interest, If you let me know which countries you are in I will be able to guide you towards certain brands or others. I am assuming Spain, The UK and Canada. But if someone else is reading from another country just drop me a comment and I'll try to include it in my article. Thanks again!! :)

eos_ian said:
08 October 2012 @ 01:55

Hi everyone, part three has just been posted, hope its useful and you enjoy it!

Chris said:
08 October 2012 @ 12:24

I like the Olive oil Frutado from Aldi. Seems to go well with everything and good for frying. I prefer the plastic bottled version to the glass for some reason!

08 October 2012 @ 12:51

What a great post! Catching up with parts 2 and 3. Many thanks!

eos_ian said:
08 October 2012 @ 14:10

Chris tastes are like colours, everyone has their own preference. The chances are there won't be much difference between the two in terms of quality but the flavour could change if the variety used in each is different.If a supermarket packages some olive oil in glass it doesn't always mean it is a superior olive oil to their plastic version. As with wine, olive oil is a world of experience, the more oils you taste and understand the difference, the more you will be able to appreciate the different qualities and complexities it has.

Maggie said:
12 October 2012 @ 18:02

Fantastic read! Had no idea this was going on! Going to read part 2 and part 3 now!

condado 7 said:
20 October 2012 @ 09:22

Wonderful reading,and information, Thank you,

Neddie said:
22 October 2012 @ 14:43

.....I thought you may be interested in this article out of Uruguay....sorry, i don't have an English version !!

Patrick said:
23 October 2012 @ 16:49

Absolutely love your article(s) on extra virgin olive oil and would really appreciate your recommendation for a reliable UK online supplier.

In anticipation

eos_ian said:
23 October 2012 @ 22:35

Thank you Patrick for your comment, Right now I couldn't recommend any online supplier because I live in Spain and I haven't used any but I will be taking a look! I won't recommend anything I haven't used myself! What I will be posting very shortly is a list of what I call "Benchmark Brands" to look out for in 2012-2013. Brands which are conscientious and trustworthy. Brands I know and have tried frequently. I will also be giving guidance on flavours so you can easily benchmark these oils against other more readily available brands and improve your "tasting skills".
Thanks again!

eos_ian said:
23 October 2012 @ 22:40

Neddie , thanks for the link, funnily enough we were talking about olive oils from Uruguay the other day at an Olive Oil seminar in Segorbe, Valencia. They are starting to do some great oils apparently. Better than Argentina. Unfortunately I haven't been able to try any yet!

Aida Carvalho said:
18 July 2013 @ 15:10

Hi! I read a lot about your good impreesion of Spanish olive oil.

I think you should also spend some time in Portugal, because Portugal has also very good olive oils.
I am representant of a gourmet Portuguese olive oil, which you can read about in this site‎

and also organic olive oil -

Those are excelent olive oils and of course there are a lot more of different parts of Portugal .

Visit us and enjoy.

eos ian said:
18 July 2013 @ 15:22

Hi Aida
I couldn't agree more.Portugal has some fantastic olive oil, I used some Picual from a farm in Beja for a recent blend. A sublime oil. I will look at the links. Thank you

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