. . . cooking recipes, cookery, food, cooking vacations  


If someone were to ask you "What color is the moon?", you might find yourself hesitating before giving a thoughtful reply. The reason for the hesitation is that the answer is not always the same and the conditions under which the moon's color is reflected will vary according to certain factors. These variables include the altitude of the moon over the horizon, the soil and atmospheric conditions, the absence or presence of rain, the outside temperature and the absence or presence of the sun. A surprisingly similar answer can be given to an entirely different question: "What does olive oil taste like?"

The effects that the soil conditions, climate and altitude of the olive tree grove have upon the flavor of olive oil, in addition to such other factors as the degree to which olives are ripe or unripe when harvested, the absence or presence of artificial chemicals, and the variety of olive cultivar, are discussed in greater detail in our website. Here, it seems noteworthy to briefly illuminate some of the distinctive features of the olive tree world in ten different countries in order to demonstrate how the range of olive oil flavors complement the corresponding natural food bio-diversity of the regions. The remarkable range of flavors produced from olives in different parts of the world serves to focus well-deserved attention upon the importance of selecting your olive oil with care in order to complement your dish and highlight its special qualities that inspired you to create it in the first place.

I have featured some of the olive cultivars and corresponding olive oil flavors from a few regions of the olive tree world. I welcome the contribution of individuals from olive growing regions that are not covered in this article, such as Argentina, Chile. Mexico, Syria, Australia, Cyprus, Morocco, China, South Africa, Jordan and Egypt as well as others, in order to enhance our knowledge and appreciation of their part of the world and heighten our awareness of their important contribution to the international olive oil industry.


The olive varieties used in the production of approximately 350,000 tons of olive oil per year in Greece are: Kalamata, Kolovi, Karydolia, Tsounati, Psiloelia, Prassinolia, Koroneiki, Manaki, Adramytiani and Doppia. The significant olive growing regions are: the Peloponnese, which produces an olive oil with an aroma reminiscent of mown hay and green olives and a vegetal flavor with herbal overtones; Chalcedon, which produces an olive oil possessed of an herbal bouquet and a dense texture that has a deep, peppery and fruity flavor; Crete that produces a refined and smooth tasting olive oil with an aroma suggestive of fresh herbs and a flavor of delicate fruits with a light texture; and Lygourio that is lesser known but produces an olive oil that has a very low acidity and a flavor suggestive of fruits and herbs.

Most Greek dishes incorporate olive oil, especially salads, goat and sheep cheese dishes, grilled meats, seafood, grilled and stuffed peppers, tomato salads, cooked vegetables, pastichio, and the variety of phyllo pastry pies including meat, cheese and spinach.


Portugal is known for its Cobrancosa, Verdeal Trasmontana, Madural, Cordovil and Galega varieties of olive cultivar, the latter of which produces approximately three quarters of the country's annual olive oil production of 50,000 tons. There are five regions that are considered to be the primary olive growing areas of the country. Tras-os-Montes in the northeast produces different flavored olive oils with common features being a very low natural acidity, delicate texture and flavor reminiscent of fresh fruit and herbs but with different aromas ranging from almonds and sugar to spices. Moura produces olive oil that has a yellow color converging on highlights of green, a flavor suggesting fresh fruit and a light, herbal aroma. Norte Alentejano produces a very golden olive oil with a deep, smooth texture, and a flavor suggestive of fresh fruit. Beira produces an olive oil with a light yellow color tinged with green highlights that also has a smooth texture and a fruity flavor. Ribatejo produces olive oil with a smooth, dense texture, golden color and fruity flavor.


Spain is the world's leading producer of olive oil with approximately 975,000 tons produced per year in ten regions of the country. Andalusia contributes approximately seventy five percent of the country's annual olive oil production primarily from the Hojiblanca, Lechin de Sevilla, Picual, Picudo, Ocal and Verdial olive cultivars which create a wide range of flavors and colors of olive oil; however, one very popular olive oil from the Sierra Subbetica region possesses a unique sweet citrus flavor that makes this oil very compatible with dessert dishes that incorporate Spain's domestically produced citrus fruits. Aragon has the Empeltre variety of olive cultivar that has a golden color, an aroma of ripe red apples and a slightly sweet flavor suggestive of fresh fruits. Baena, known for its traditional cuisine that features sweet, sour and spicy dishes using lemon and orange based sauces and marinades, has primarily the Hojiblanca, Picual and Picudo varieties of olive cultivar that create an olive oil with a spicy, fruity and slightly bitter flavor, an aroma of fresh herbs and flowers and a smooth, delicate texture. Castille and Mancha have the Cornicabra variety of olive cultivar that creates a strong, aromatic olive oil with a distinct bitterness and a suggestion of pepper in its bite. Catalonia with its Arbequina, Empeltre and Fraga varieties of olive cultivar produces a very lively and sweet olive oil reminiscent of fresh fruit and almonds with a slight aftertaste of milk and toasted bread.

Estremadura has the Carasquena, Cornicabra and Morsica varieties of olive tree that produces a very strong olive oil with a peppery bite, that complements meats and cheeses with very bold, distinctive flavors. Priego de Cordoba produces a smoothly yet densely textured golden yellow olive oil with tinges of green possessing a fruity and slightly bitter flavor with the Hojiblanca, Picual and Picudo varieties of olive cultivar. Sierra de Segura has the Hojiblanca and Picual varieties of olive cultivar that produce an aromatic and spicy olive oil in this particular region. Sierra Magina has the Hojiblanca, Lechin, Ocal, Picual, Picudo and Verdial olive cultivar varieties that produce a strong, distinctly flavored olive oil with a smooth texture and fruity flavor. The Siurana region has the Arbequina variety of olive cultivar that produces a very light yellow colored oil with a delicate, sweet flavor.


Italy produces approximately 425,000 tons of olive oil per year in the following nine regions of the country. Calabria makes a distinctive fruity and at the same time vegetal flavored olive oil possessing a slight bitterness primarily from the Carolea and Nocellara varieties of olive cultivar. Campagna produces a dense, fruity and golden color olive oil from the Frantoio, Carolea, Coratina, Leccino and Ogliarota varieties of olive cultivar. In Latium, the Frantoio variety produces olive oil possessing an intense mineral flavor that complements its regional dishes such as lobster, spider crab, turbot and, of course, pasta, tomatoes and Brousse cheese. Liguria produces an olive oil with a sweet flavor, delicate texture primarily from the Opalino and Taggiasca olive cultivars.

Puglia produces almost one half of the country's olive oil from the Coratina, Provenzale and Ogliarola varieties which create a flavor suggestive of white fleshed fruits and sweet almonds with a light and delicate texture. Sardinia's cuisine, consisting of seafood, salads, pasta and wonderful cheeses, is complemented by a complex fruit and vegetal flavored, green color olive oil with a hint of bitterness and an artichoke and dandelion aroma produced in the region using primarily Bianca, Bosana and Tonda olive cultivars. Sicily, known for its seafood and fresh green vegetables, has the Biancolilla, Cerasuola, Moresca, Nocellara and Tonda Iblea olive varieties that produce olive oil possessing a sweet almond flavor by the coast and a fruity flavor inland and on the higher elevations. In Tuscany you will find generous portions of raw and cooked vegetables, fish, pork tenderloins and pasta prepared with their locally produced olive oil made from the Frantoio, Leccino, Moraiolo, Olivastra, and Pendolino varieties of olive trees that produce a range of colors and flavors, such as the olive oil from Chianti with a golden green color and a spicy and peppery flavor with a suggestion of artichokes; a light golden yellow oil from Lucca; and a very rustic olive oil with a deep texture and intense flavor from Montalcino. Umbria is blanketed with the Agogia, Frantoio, Leccino, Moraiolo and Raggiola olive cultivars which produce an olive oil possessing a slightly fruity flavor with a peppery kick, an aroma reminiscent of artichokes and a very smooth, fluid texture.


France produces approximately 2,500 tons of olive oil per year in nine regions of the country. Aix-en-Provence has the Aglandau variety of olive cultivar that produces a unique olive oil with a slight bitterness and an aroma of almonds and hazelnuts that complements the regional French Mediterranean cuisine. Ardeche has the Rougette variety that produces a very distinctive olive oil with a woodland aroma and slightly herbal flavor with a suggestion of fruits. Aude and Gard produce a very well balanced, fruity olive oil characterized by a smooth texture primarily from the Lucques and Picholene varieties of olive cultivar. Corsica has primarily the Picholine and Sabina varieties of olive cultivar that produce a green colored olive oil with an herbal bouquet slightly suggestive of green vegetables and a peppery, fiery bite to its flavor. The Corsicans are known to vary their harvest times according to the desired flavor that they wish to produce by harvesting in the winter for a more bitter flavor from less than ripe olives and harvesting in the spring for a sweeter flavor oil from ripe olives. Corsicans create an olive oil that complements their cuisine influenced by North Africa and Southern Europe in their featured specialties such as couscous, tajines, carpaccio, gazpacho and spicy seafood dishes.

Haute Provence uses principally the Aglandau as well as the Bouteillan and Picholine olive cultivar varieties to create a smooth, densely textured olive oil with a fruity flavor to complement their regional cuisine that includes lamb, seafood, pumpkin, courgettes, peppers, cheeses, and white meats. The traditional cuisine of Les Baux includes white meats, lobster, bass, vegetables, cheeses and pasta dishes that incorporate the locally produced olive oil made from the Aglandau, Grossane, Picholine, and Saloneque olive cultivars to produce an oil with a fragrance of white flowers and fruit blossoms and there is a slight suggestion of bitter almonds associated with this oil. The region of Massif de l'Esterel and Nice grows the Cailletier olive cultivar that produces a very refined, light, yellow colored olive oil with a delicate and slightly sweet flavor and a bouquet reminiscent of almonds, acacia and hawthorn. The region of Massif des Maures and Haut Var have a number of olive cultivars, some dating back to very old times indeed, but the principal ones include Aglandau, Bouteillan, Grossane, Picholene and Ribiers which are grown in order to produce a sweet and slightly spicy olive oil with an aroma of white fleshed fruits and a smooth texture that complements the seafood, lamb, bouillabaisse, salads and dishes incorporating pine nuts. The Tanche variety of olive cultivar is grown in Nyons that produces a sweet and at the same time slightly milky flavored olive oil with a nutty aroma suggestive of hazelnuts and almonds that complements the regional cuisine consisting of seafood, salads and fruit tarts.


The Jezreel Valley in Galilee, Israel, produces olive oil primarily from the Barnea, Manzanillo, Nabali and Souri olive cultivars for a maximum annual yield of approximately 5,000 tons. The Barnea cultivar produces a sweet, lightly fruity olive oil with a suggestion of vegetal flavor and an aroma reminiscent of newly mown hay The Manzanillo and Nabali varieties produce a smooth and lightly textured olive oil that may be characterized as more neutral in flavor compared to the strong and distinctly flavored olive oils from other regions of the world. The Souri variety produces an olive oil with a distinctive honey and peppery flavor and an herbal aroma. The olive oil produced by this latter variety especially complements the veal, artichokes and zucchini dishes of the region.


Croatia has the Buga and Leccino varieties of olive cultivar to produce approximately 500 tons of olive oil per year. Their olive oil is characterized by a refined texture with a fruity flavor and a fragrance suggestive of artichokes, cocoa and hay. The dishes of the region using white meats, artichokes and raw tuna are enhanced by the distinctive olive oil produced in the region.


The Chemlali de Sfax, Chetoui, Gerboui, Meski and Oueslati olive cultivars are grown in Tunisia that has a variable production rate of between 75,000 and 275,000 tons of olive oil that corresponds with its variation in annual rainfall. The country's most reknowned olive oil is produced from the groves in the region of Carthage. The olive oil is greenish in color with a wonderful aroma and a flavor reminiscent of fresh fruit with a tinge of bitterness.


The olive cultivars Ayvalik, Domat, Ekiste, Elebi, Erkence, Gemlik, Izmir Sofralik, Memecik, Memeli, Trilya and Uslu are grown for the production of approximately 150,000 to 200,000 tons of olive oil per year. It is interesting to note that Turkey harvests olives from the Domat, Izmir and Trilya cultivars for the comparable production of both olive oil and table olives. The olive oil from the well known area of Adatepe, the site of the mythological Mount Ida, is a refined, smoothly textured oil with a light golden green color, an herbal bouquet and a delicate flavor reminiscent of fresh fruit.

United States

The U.S. derives its olive oil primarily from the Manzanillo, Sevillano, Mission, Ascolano and Barouni olive cultivars predominantly located in California and Texas. The total annual production is approximately 1,000 tons of olive oil that is generally characterized as sweet and fruity. The U.S. consumes more than 150,000 tons of olive oil annually and is becoming increasingly aware of the different characteristics of olive oil that is imported from around the world.

Constantine Alexander
The Olive Tree World

This article came from Constantine Alexander better known as Papa Constantine. Papa Constantine is a Certified Olive Oil Consultant based in Connecticut, USA. His website is no longer available.

© Constantine Alexander, 2001
All rights reserved

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com