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California Olive Oil
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Volume 3 Issue 8


August 2000

Portuguese Renaissance   Briefs:
Black Scale Control Events
Albanians Tour California Classified Ads
Comments From the Internet Subscribe to the newsletter

 Portuguese Renaissance

 by Judy Ridgway

Judy Ridgway discovers that Portuguese olive oil is finally coming of age and finding its place in the European market.

 Whether you look in the rugged landscape of the Upper Douro and the Tras-os-Montes in northern Portugal or among the gently rolling hills of Moura and the Norte Alentejano you will find an olive oil industry which is finally leaving its rustic past and moving into the high-tech world of the twenty-first century.   

Total Portuguese production of olive oil this year is expected to increase but given the country's very small percentage of total EU production it will remain a drop in the ocean.   However, life may be a little easier for the Portuguese exporters this year with Spain's forecasted shortfall of 100,000-200,000 tonnes against the expected 800,000-900,000 tonnes.  The latter could lead to a temporary shortage of olive oil with a consequent firming of prices. 

To compete in the international marketplace Portugal needs to produce premium oils of some class.   Historically, Portugal consumed all the olive oil it could produce and there was no need or desire to export.  The style of oil was rustic and often slightly oxidized but the Portuguese were not very interested in the niceties of extra virgin olive oil.  They liked their oil the way it was. 

Then in the eighties part of the home market was seduced by the health claims made for polyunsaturated vegetable oils and the demand for olive oil started to decline and with it the cultivation of the olive.   In some parts of the Ribatejo, for example, groves were left to go to rack and ruin and some were grubbed up to make way for the more modern sunflower.

This trend is now being reversed.  The health aspects of olive oil have received a good deal of attention, export markets for olive oil are growing and Portugal has joined the European Union.  As a result, olive groves are being rescued or replanted and modern equipment is being installed in both old and new olive mills. 

In fact, Portugal may well have benefited from the previous decline in olive oil production.   Research into new cultivation techniques and the best types of centrifugal pressing equipment has been growing in momentum and many of Southern Europe's universities have joined with the olive research stations in this work.   Portuguese producers are now able to leap-frog over the mistakes made in other producing countries and latch on to the most up-to-date techniques. 

New Generation of Producers 

Olives are a traditional crop in most parts of Portugal.  Small farmers have their vines, their vegetables and their olive trees.   Farms like these supply the olive oil producing co-operatives like the one at Moura in south eastern Portugal.   This is the largest co-operative in Portugal with 1,000 producers, growing the local Cordovil as well as Galega and Verdeal.   Here modern know-how is being applied to ancient practices and the mix is producing some first-rate olive oil.

But the trend, particularly in southern Portugal where there are more large estates and fewer people living on the land, is towards a much larger olive groves.   The Olidal co-operative at Sousel near Estramoz in the Norte Alentejano was formed five years ago and brought together one very large landowner with around 30 other growers.   The philosophy here is extremely go ahead and old groves have been grubbed up to make way for new and extended plantings which march across the landscape in a way which is very reminiscent of Andalucia.   The total holding is 800 hectares making it one of the largest in Portugal.

The main plantings have been of the native Galega and Cobrancosa olives with Blanquetta and Spain's Picual - a variety which is frowned upon by some in Portugal who feel that native varieties help to define the new Portuguese style.   However, Picual yields almost double the amount of oil given by other varieties. 

Drip irrigation has been installed in many of the groves with sophisticated computer control of water and fertilizer.   In addition, the groves have been planted in wide rows to allow modern mechanical harvesting of the type used in some parts of southern Spain.   The olives are shaken from the trees and hoovered up into large hoppers for transportation to the mill.   The belief is that any damage to the olives is offset by the speed with which they reach the mill and are processed. 

The Olidol mill itself is equally modern with a two phase continuous centrifugal system with no added water.   The system not only produces first class extra virgin oil but also reduces the problems of disposing of the waste vegetable water from the mill. Production is expected to double in the next three to four years as the new groves come on stream. 

Olidol is not the only group to install the latest equipment.  SPAZA, the wine-making company, has invested in a site at Serpa just south of Moura to make Esporao extra virgin olive oil.   The existing co-operative mill has been fully modernised and looks more like a winery with its stainless steel holding tanks and continuous mills.   There are now forty growers supplying the mill and they work hand in hand with the experts at SPAZA to improve the quality of their crops.  

The structure of olive oil production in northern Portugal is rather different to that in the south.   The pattern of small holdings is much more entrenched and the land is more densely populated.   Olives and olive oil production never really faltered in this area and many of the co-operatives continue as they always have. 

However, there are strong indications that here, too, modernisation is on the way.   The lead is coming from local people who have been working in Lisbon as doctors, civil engineers and the like and who have decided to return to their roots.   Farms on family estates are being dragged into the modern world.

One such boutique outfit is Quinta do Carrascal situated near to Villa Flor in the Tras-os-Montes.   Vines and olive grow side by side on this pretty family run farm but the rustic picture is not bourne out by the state-of-the-art equipment in the tiny mill and the sophisticated weather checking equipment which is used to forecast possible invasions by the olive fly. 

A similar but much larger concern has been set up by the Madeira family at Casa Agricola Roboredo near Vilar de Amargo in the upper Douro.   A brand new mill has been built to house two production lines.   One uses traditional granite mill stones linked to a stainless steel decanting machine.   The other line uses a Sinolea machine which extracts a much lower percentage of the oil. 

Rui Madeira the olive oil maker is both dedicated and highly qualified.   He is in constant dialogue with Professor Gouveia, the leading light in the renaissance of Portuguese olive oil.   Great care is taken at every stage from grove to bottle.   The result is a range of excellent extra virgin olive oils with a taste and flavour which is unique in Portugal.

The style of Madeira's oil is much more grassy than other Portuguese oils with some pungency and these characteristics may be intensified if Madeira carries out his plan to start the harvest a little earlier this year.    There are a number of farms on the estate and their names are used as brand names for the oils.  The plan is to produce a different style of oil for each name.

Designation of Origin 

All the olive oil producers described above are producing premium olive oils which can complete with the best in Europe and they will need to for most of them are produced for export.   There is a small market for first class oil in Lisbon but the rest of the country remains wedded to the old-style rustic oils.

However, one of the new weapons in the Portuguese oil armoury is the European DOP or denomination of origin system.   Professor Gouveia in Lisbon has supervised the setting up of five DOP regions with fully fledged accreditation organizations and all the new producers make at least one oil under their auspices.   The designated regions are Tras-os-Montes, Beira Interior which is rather behind the other four, Ribatejo, Norte Alentejano and Moura. 

DOP regions for oil are rather like AOC or DOC regions for wine.  Oils which carry the DOP symbol on their label must be made from named olive varieties to certain high specifications which include acidity levels well below one per cent (required for extra virgin status) and must be submitted to organoleptic tasting panels.  

DOP registration has been slow to take off in the major producing countries.   There are still only around a dozen DOP regions in Spain and not all that many more in Italy, though interest is beginning to grow there.  Producers, both large and small, have not really seen the advantage of gaining DOP accreditation.  

However, this looks set to change, particularly in Italy where some of the large producers see DOP oils as their stepping stone into the premium olive oil market.  Conversely small producers have not taken up DOP accreditation as they have in Portugal.   They see it as being too expensive and, if the large producers do get on the bandwagon, not of sufficiently high status to reflect the quality of their oils. Maybe we shall eventually see Tuscan superoils in the same fashion as superwines. 

Designation of origin has yet to make an impact on the consumer but money is now being spent both by the EU and by the producing countries to give people more information.   The Italian Government is said to planning a major promotion of Italian DOP oils. 

Such promotions can only help Portuguese DOP oils and, judging by the strides forward which have already been made, we can expect to see more Portuguese olive oil reaching the standards set by the top Spanish and Italian oils.  

Judy Ridgway is an international judge and expert on olive oil. She has written more than 55 books on food and wine, appears on radio and television, gives tutored tastings and seminars, staff training, product assessment, and does consultancy work for public relations and promotional companies. She can be reached at http://www.oliveoil.org.uk/

Black Scale Control

The black scale is best controlled in August once all eggs have hatched and crawlers are out on the leaves. In the San Joaquin Valley, this is a "one generation per year insect". The adults mature in March and April, lay eggs and the crawlers (immature stages), the only stages susceptible to insecticide treatment, emerge from under the females in June, July, and August. For most effective treatment, applications must be delayed until all eggs have hatched.

Although black scale can be effectively treated from August through mid-winter, early treatments (August) are best as the longer an infestation remains in place, the more negative effect it has on the subsequent bloom - to say nothing of coating this year's crop with honeydew and sooty mold.

Comments from the Internet:

Dear Olive Oil Source:  While I respect Bruce Golino enormously, I take issue with his "plant in the fall" recommendation.  Bruce notes that fall planting is common in Italy, which is true, but it is important to bear in mind that most of Italy experiences some degree of rainfall during the summer, which we do not.  As a consequence, the soil is exceptionally dry, and results in high stress on the young trees (even if drip irrigation begins immediately upon planting). Our experience (and we've tried it both ways) shows that spring planting has a much higher success rate.  In addition, because fall-planted trees go dormant soon after planting, we've detected no advantage in speed-to-production from fall-planted trees in comparison to those planted the following spring. While we will reluctantly sell trees for fall planting, we strongly recommend to our customers that they wait and plant in the April-June time frame.  Sincerely -- Ridgely Evers, Olive Ridge Ranch, DaVero Extra Virgin Olive Oil   

Jim asks:    I have an 4 month old miniature schnauzer with a heart murmur that we started giving a tsp. of olive oil to ( at 8 weeks ) each morning with her kibble. We have been told that cod liver oil would be better.  

OOS Replies:  Are pets the next growth area for olive oil sales?  Cod liver oil is an excellent health additive as far as vitamins.  It is higher than olive oil in Vit. A. Fish oils are high in polyunsaturated fatty acids known as the omega-3 or n-3 fatty acids which some studies have shown prevent heart disease in humans. Fish oils are also high in the precursors of thromboxanes and prostacyclins, which are important for platelet and vessel wall physiology and may inhibit the formation of blood clots in the coronary arteries. In spite of all this the American Heart Association (AHA) does not recommend general usage of fish oil supplements until more compelling evidence is at hand. (Note that heart murmurs are usually valvular problems and are unrelated to coronary artery disease and clots which are affected by diet.) The AHA does currently recommend a "Mediterranean diet" which predominates in polyunsaturated or monosaturated fats such as is found in olive oil, canola oil, nuts and fish. Olive oil has polyphenols and other antioxidants as well as monosaturated fats which have a salubrious effect on the heart and blood pressure. I am not a veterinarian but I would guess that for the dog,  its a toss-up which oil to use. The calories for both are the same. We haven't discussed taste which we are assuming is not a factor for a dog. Although fish oils are healthy, they would be a hard sell for human consumption as a table spread, salad dressing, baking ingredient, etc. due to taste. 


Albanian Delegation Tours California

by Oliver Spitz

They get Tips on Organic Farming and Olive Oil Production via educational Program Sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Developement (A.I.D.)

This July a group of Albanian growers, parliamentarians and university scientists toured California in an effort to jump start their struggling economy by creating an organic farming industry. Fertilizers and pesticides have not been used in Albania due to their prohibitive cost and the hillsides are covered with old growth olive trees. The U.S. A.I.D. has been helping their citizens develop a market economy catering to the EU's increasing demand for organic produce and oil. Caroline Krawiec Brownstone of International Management and Marketing Associates was responsible for implementation of the U.S. A.I.D. program to help draft legislation in Albania to establish standards for integrated farm produce using reduced amounts of chemicals and establish certification mechanisms for such produce.  Olive oil, honey, vegetables, especially tomatoes, and herbs were specifically targeted for this program.  Lisa Noe from the Olive Oil Source helped research their itinerary and rode on the bus to hear their reactions to our farming and marketing methods: 

IMMA organized the entire program in the U.S. for Albanian project. The first meeting took place at the McEvoy Ranch, a certified organic producer, where they received a history of the estate, and an oil tasting from Michael Coon. Shari Dejoseph, orchard manager, gave a tour of the grounds. She explained how oyster shell and gypsum was added to the pH  5.4 clay soil to improve drainage, get fuller growth, improved color and increase resistance to peacock spot. Drip irrigation systems discharge 20 to 25 gallons once a  week for the larger trees. Olive compost and cow manure is spread on the surface and cover crops such as vetch and clover are planted then mown between the 18 X 18 foot roes. Fish meal may be used in future.  Professor Kristaq Sini, microbiologist at the Agricultural University of Tirana was dismayed that no tilling was used to get these nutrients into the soil and that no biological agents were used to capture the expensive nitrogen compounds being dumped on the surface. It seems that there has been more effort to capture nitrogen naturally with legumes and microbes in Albania because of the unavailability of fertilizer. (Erosion concerns prohibit tilling in Sonoma). Pruning methods were quite different as we need not worry about the olive fly (quite yet). Propagation techniques were reputed to be similar to what is done in Albania. In addition to removing most of the leaves from twigs to be rooted, Dr. Hairi Ismaili of the Institute of Fruit Trees demonstrated cutting the remaining leaves in half to decrease transpirational water losses.  The group was given a tour of the stone and steel mills, and the Rapanelli sinolea separator and the Pieralisi centrifuge decanter. Currently the Rapanelli unit produces 40% of the oil at the estate but it is mixed with output from the decanter. There may be plans in future to sell the oils separately. 

At the Olive Press in Glen Ellen Greg Reisinger gave a history of California olives and oil varieties and  examined the Pieralisi press.  The press processes 1 ton/hr at a temperature of 72 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. They seemed especially

 interested in advanced storage methods such as nitrogen capping in the large tanks.  Upon touring the retail location the Albanians were shocked that the oil sold for $16 to $18 per 500ml.  (Average pay of university professors is around $100 U.S. per month).  The premium glass containers were also regarded with skepticism as the average Albanian could never afford such expensive packaging.  They were eager to note that to sell premium organic oil outside of their country they must adjust the product and packaging accordingly.

At Viansa winery in Sonoma the tour group had a chance to see cutting edge private labeling and marketing techniques for oils, vinegars, salsas, spreads, tapenades, etc., organic and otherwise.  The store and tasting area was its usual frenzy of consumerism courtesy of busloads of San Francisco tourists getting their first glimpse of the wine country. 

Next on the tour Nicola and Caroline Critelli presented the Fairfield operations of Calio Groves.  They viewed the Alfa Laval equipment capable of processing 3 tons per hour.  Calio Groves produced 135,000 gallons last year of California oil and imported 245,000 gallons of olive oil for their restaurant trade.  They are also importing 200,000 lbs of canola a month for their restaurant blends.  

In  Santa Rosa U.C. extension olive expert Paul Vossen gave a concise talk on olive oil tasting, the organic movement in California, organic testing, and organic legislation and organizations.  The Albanians were very interested in  the mechanism of cooperation between the counties, state and Universities as there is a need to set up a similar system in their country.  Sophia Galifaro, hazardous materials program manager for Sonoma County also gave a presentation.

At the Vaca Valley Orchard Company where vegetables and herbs are gradually replacing fruit trees dying of oak rot the group was given a presentation on small size sustainable and organic farming by  owner Mary Eldredge. Vegetables and fruit are grown at the site for sale at a farm store and also for export to Southern California.  The visitors seemed intrigued with the organic pest management techniques.  The farm keeps some sort of plant in bloom year round to keep a sizable colony of ladybugs from migrating and feeders attract birds which are natural pest killers.  Sticky traps with ammonia attractant is used during certain insect hatches.  Mary explained how she paid a percentage of her gross and other monies for organic certification and support for associations which help promote organic farmers.  She also described the considerable paperwork and documentation burden imposed on organic farmers.

The group viewed an organic herb and seed farm in greenhouses which used innovative plumbing to heat or cool raised beds depending on the time of year.  Herbs are grown year round for local consumption.  A site visit was made to the olive orchard at Ridgely Evers in Healdsburg.  A day was also spent at the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and the California Certified Organic Farmers, both in Santa Cruz.  Day long visits were made to Sacramento to meet with the State of California Department of Food and Agriculture and the California Farm Bureau.  Site visits were made to the University of California, Davis where presentations were made by the Statewide Integrated Pest Management Project and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers.  The Albanians also visited the San Francisco and Davis farmer's markets and were given a presentation by John Deane of The Olive Oil Source on collaborating via the internet.  The participants were encouraged to join newsgroups and email lists to learn from olive oil and organic farmers worldwide.


Calio Groves will be dropping the Critelli label for retail packaging but will continue it for the restaurant trade.  

The Olivary articulated arm harvester will be available for viewing end of August - call the Olive Oil Source for details 415-461-6267

For more news - go to our Food News Page



Olive oil tasting, August 1, Monday, 6:30-9pm, tasting.  South Bay Adult School, 600 Diamond St., Room 601, Redondo Beach, CA. $34. Call (310) 318-5152 for directions.

California State Fair 2000 August 18th through September 4th Fairgrounds, Sacramento


Festival of the Culinary Arts September 16,17 San Francisco on Polk St. Live cooking demonstrations by celebrity chefs and members of the California Culinary Academy.  Representatives of Critelli, Sciabica and Jamestown olive oil were there last year.

How to Select & Enjoy California Olive Oil - Sept 16 and Sept 30  - a fun and friendly crash course with lots of tasting, videos, and handouts; Stephanie Prima is a member of the C.O.O.C. Master Taste Panel. prima@inreach.com

Sat Sept 161:00 – 4:00 p.m. City College (415) 239-3000 Marina Middle School, San Francisco CA

Sat  Sept 30 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Lodi Arts Commission (209) 367-5442 125 S. Hutchins St., Ste. D Lodi CA 95240

Natural Products Expo, Baltimore, MD.
Education: 2000
September 20-24

September 22-24 http://www.expowest.com/showdates.html


Canada College Arts and Olive Oil Festival  Saturday, September 30 and Sunday, October 1, 2000. Held at Canada College  in Redwood City, California. COOC producers may exhibit and receive a complimentary 10' by 10' space. You must participate both days.

Fourth Annual Consorzio Cal-Italia Wine Tasting Saturday, October 7,  Taste Italian Varietals and Foods Produced in California! Admission for the public is $25 per person
Media and Trade: 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm Consumers: 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason, San Francisco

How to Select & Enjoy California Olive Oil - Oct 14, Oct 24 and Oct 28 - a fun and friendly crash course with lots of tasting, videos, and handouts; Stephanie Prima is a member of the C.O.O.C. Master Taste Panel. prima@inreach.com

Oct 14 Sat. 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Foothill Community College (408) 864-8817 12345 El Monte Road Los Altos CA 94022

Oct 24 Tue 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. Lodi Arts Commission (209) 367-5442 125 S. Hutchins St., Ste. D Lodi CA 95240

Oct 28 Sat 1:00 – 4:00 p.m. Santa Rosa Community College (707) 527-4371 1501 Mendocino Avenue Santa Rosa CA 95401


18th Annual AgFRESNO Farm Equipment Exposition November 14-16, 2000  Fresno, CA  Fairgrounds 


Lipids, Fats and Oils: Opportunities and Responsibilities in the New Century, October 8-10, Würzburg, Germany

Japan Oil Chemists' Society/American Oil Chemists' Society World Congress 2000 (JAWC 2000), October 22-27, Kyoto, Japan

Other Event Calendars:

Italian Culinary Institute Calendar

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