In this blog we’re taking a look at the varieties of olives that go into producing Boccadoro Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Olive oil can be either monovarietal (100% produced from a single variety of olive), or contain several different varieties of olives. Whilst our extra virgin olive oil must contain a majority of one variety (Ogliarola), we find that combining it with a number of other varieties makes for a more interesting oil, with enhanced aromas and flavours.
Ogliarola is definitely the star of the show when it comes to our olive oil. It is one of the traditional Puglian varieties, and has been the principal olive tree variety used in oil production in the region for hundreds of years. The vast majority of the iconic ancient olive trees the region is famous for are Ogliarola, and its characteristics are the driving force behind the celebrated qualities of Puglian olive oil.
We ensure that a minimum of 70% of the olives going into each batch of Boccadoro are from Ogliarola trees – this is the minimum requirement in order to comply with DOP Collina di Brindisi stipulations. In reality, this isn’t difficult as not only are the majority of our trees Ogliarola, they tend to be the older, larger trees that consistently provide a good crop each year.
This variety is fairly early to ripen, so by October each year they are already a wonderful blue colour, whilst later in the harvest many become darker. When fully ripe they are a very dark blue/black in appearance.
Ogliarola are specifically used in oil production – generally they are small in size so are not ideal for table olives, and have all the characteristics to produce an olive oil of superb quality.
There are 3 different types of Ogliarola olive trees across Puglia – Ogliarola Salentina (from the Salento area, the heel of the boot of Italy); Ogliarola Barese (from the area around the city of Bari in mid-Puglia); and Ogliarola Garganico (from the Gargano, the hilly area forming the ‘spur’ of the boot of Italy in northern Puglia). Whilst originating from the same species of olive, the three each have slight variations in their characteristics due to the changing qualities of the land on which they grow. Boccadoro Extra Virgin Olive Oil includes only Ogliarola Salentina.
It is the Ogliarola olives that are responsible for the intense yellow-green appearance of much of the olive oil produced in Puglia.
The reason Ogliarola has proven such a successful olive oil cultivar over such a long period of time is the well-balanced flavours it produces – there is a fantastic mix of deep fruitiness and peppery kick, meaning it is well suited to all kinds of culinary uses – raw on salads and vegetables; for cooking pasta, risotto and ragù; shallow frying and roasting meat or potatoes – the list of foods the oil can be used with is endless. You can even try the old tradition of simply smearing some on toast – simple but effective!
We love our Ogliarola trees, each with their own individual character – hollow, mishapen trunks, twisted branches and evergreen foliage, but the oil they produce really is something else.
Coratina is another of the traditional Puglian olive varieties. It originated in the town of Corato, just to the west of Bari, from which it takes its name.
The adaptability and disease resistance of Coratina has meant it is now widespread across northern Puglia in particular, and even as far afield as South Africa.
In contrast to Ogliarola, Coratina olives are later to ripen, and are distinctive in appearance as most of the olives in October and November are yellow in colour – the trees really stand out as you drive around the area in the build up to the harvest, with their branches dripping with large yellow olives. On closer inspection many of the Coratina olives are a variety of colours, some even a bright red like cherries. Once harvested into nets and buckets they really are a beautiful sight.
The most notable characteristic of the Coratina variety is its high phenolic acid levels – in fact it has one of the highest concentrations of all olive cultivars. This creates an oil with excellent stability that will stay fresh for longer, and also contributes to a lovely sharp, bitter flavour and peppery aftertaste.
Cellina di Nardò
Cellina di Nardò is also a traditional Puglian variety of olive, although it is believed it was brought to the region by the Saracens hundreds of years ago, hence it also goes by the name of ‘Saracena’. It is prevalent in the area around the city of Lecce, but can also be found as far away as California.
Cellina di Nardò tend to ripen fairly early in the season, so by the time of the harvest most are an inky black colour, almost dripping with oil.
Due to their larger size they are perfect for curing in brine to be eaten, and are a popular variety of table olive eaten throughout the world. When pressed for oil they contribute a full flavour, with a pleasing bitter aftertaste. They are particularly rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
The Frantoio variety is originally from the Tuscany region of Italy, but has been prevalent in Puglia for many years. ‘Frantoio’ translates as ‘olive press’ from Italian, signifying its suitability as an oil producing variety – although they can also be found cured for eating.
Frantoio olive trees have excellent adaptability to soil and weather conditions, so combined with its oil producing characteristics it is a popular choice for export across the globe, now being planted in places such as China and New Zealand.
The olives are fairly late to ripen, so when we harvest them the majority have a beautiful mixture of colours from green to red, often a combination of the two. There are usually a handful of riper olives that are a dark purple in colour, so as with the Coratina olives they provide a wonderful spectrum of colours during the harvest.
Frantoio olives tend to produce an oil of noticeably more complex aromas, with fruity flavours and a medium peppery kick, and also adds a buttery texture.
Picholine olives are the only non-native Italian variety used in Boccadoro Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and only in very small numbers. They are originally from the Gard region of southern France, but have been commonplace across Puglia for some time, and are also found all across the world.
As a late ripening olive they tend to always be a fresh green colour during the harvest. They are distinctly larger and firmer in texture than most of the other varieties we use, and it is these characteristics which make it a popular table olive. In fact it is probably most famous for its use as a cocktail olive.
When pressed for oil it adds an intense fruity/flowery flavour, and are high in polyphenols.
Boccadoro Extra Virgin Olive Oil
To ensure the highest quality of extra virgin olive oil, our olives are cold-pressed within hours of being harvested from the trees. This means we do the harvest in batches, and with each batch we are able to include a different mix of olive varieties in addition to the 70% Ogliarola variety. The olives also ripen as the harvest progresses, so each batch is slightly different, from our special ‘Early Harvest’ in October, to the final batches towards the end of November. One thing that doesn’t change is the overall quality of Boccadoro Extra Virgin Olive Oil – never more than 0.4% acidity and always high in healthy polyphenols and antioxidants, with a wonderfully well-balanced fruity, peppery flavour.