Why Does Tuscan Olive Oil Taste So Good?
Posted by Kiri (14/07/2017)
When we visited Tuscany last year, we went to a wine and olive estate. The owner said, a lot of people say our olive oil is the best they have ever tasted. And she wasn’t over exaggerating. After just one taste of their freshly made, local olive oil I was hooked. It’s just got such a distinctive flavour that once you taste it, you can’t go back. The awful olive oil you buy from supermarkets simply can’t match up.
I have heard that a good olive oil from Tuscany should scratch your throat slightly. We bought back as many bottles as our suitcases would fit, and when I was devastated after I poured the last drop onto my salad. Thankfully, we recently got sent some more. And after surviving on supermarket olive oil for a while, I forgot how strong Tuscan oil tastes, and caught the sharpness at the back of my throat. Hello old friend.
Contrary to popular belief, olive oil, unlike many wines, does not get better with age. The fresher the oil is, the more exquisite the taste. The oil in Tuscany is often made on farms and vineyards where excellent wine is also produced.
The flavour changes slightly depending on what part of Tuscany you are in, because the scenery, soil and trees vary quite a bit. The quality is consistent throughout the region, but the limited single estate extra virgin oil from the Chianti region is considered the best.
Here’s why Tuscan olive oil tastes so good.
In Tuscany, olive isn’t just an ingredient, it’s a lifestyle
This is a key factor in why the olive oil tastes so amazing here. It’s because it’s a huge part of the Tuscan culture. For the local people it’s a part of their everyday life, and they see it as a key ingredient in most meals.
You won’t find much butter in this region, as people here prefer to drizzle oil on their bread instead. The locals grow up with olive oil and its taste reminds them of their childhood. Olive oil, along with saltless bread, has been the core of the Tuscan diet for centuries. It’s used in cooking, but also as a dressing for salads and bread.
This lifestyle and love for olive oil goes into its production, and that’s partly why it’s so delicious. The people here know what a quality olive oil should taste like and won’t settle for anything less than perfect when it comes to the oil they shower their food in.
It has to meet high standards
Extra virgin olive oil is not allowed to have an acidity level of less than 0.8%, and it should not contact any chemicals. These rules help to maintain the high standards of oil produced here. The process of picking the olives from the trees and turning it into olive oil shouldn’t take over four to six hours.
Another reason why the oil is so good here is when you taste it, it’s been made and bottled locally, keeping the fresh flavour. When olive oil is shipped its quality can drop, especially if it isn’t kept at an optimum temperature.
The conditions are ideal
And lastly, but most importantly, the conditions for growing olive oil are favourable. Tuscany has the right climate and fertile lands, which helps the locals to create some of the finest oil around. The right sort of trees also grow here (including the Leccino, Pendolino, Frantoio and Moraiolo).
Plus, the techniques used when picked and making the oil have been passed down and perfected through families for generations. The olives are usually picked by hand so that the fruit doesn’t get damaged which can impact the taste. The most skilled part of making olive oil is knowing when to harvest the olives, as this determines the flavour and acidity levels.