Olive Oil from Dolcedo/Val Prino

Olive oil is one of the most wholesome foods there is. Cold-pressed olive oil – unlike most other vegetable oils that are manufactured by refining – is a purely natural product. Cold-pressed olive oil is composed of 77% monounsaturated fatty acids, 9% polyunsaturated fatty acids, and 14% saturated fatty acids. The proportion of unsaturated to saturated fatty acids (P/S ratio) for olive oil is considerably lower than the recommended value of 1.0.

The predominant olive in the Val Prino is the Taggiasca olive. It is small and black when ripe. The oil from the Taggiasca olive has a very fine olive scent with a mild fruit aroma; the aftertaste has a slight hint of almond and pine nut. Its name is derived from the town of Taggia, where Benedictine monks developed this kind in the 8th century. Today, the city of Taggia certifies oil from the Taggiasca olive. The oil from the Taggiasca is especially popular and desirable among gourmets and connoisseurs. At the same time, the oil is relatively rare, as the area of cultivation for this olive is limited to western Liguria, the Riviera of Flowers, in particular the Val Prino, Valle Argentina, and Valle Impero.

Until about 15 years ago, the olives were left on the tree until they naturally fell into outspread nets below. The proportion of ripe and overripe olives was high, and the acid level was also relatively high. It was especially possible for olives to begin to rot. Until then, one could observe a gradual decline of the olive cultivation around Dolcedo. The cultivation of the old olive terraces was tediously and barely remunerative compared to Tuscany, Greece, or Spain. The production was traditional: The olives were cleaned in olive mills, crushed by large, heavy granite wheels, and the mass was filled into sacks that were then pressed with high pressure. After this first pressing that occurs at the oil millers’, a number of further (industrial) pressings with heat and high pressure follow.

Today, the olives are washed in the mill, and then crushed along with the pits to a fine pulp. 27˚C warm water is then added to this, and this liquid pulp is slowly stirred for a certain period of time. After this, the mass is centrifuged so that the oil, water, and solids of the olive are separated. No more pressings take place after this. The remaining solids are usable as fuel. This new production method makes it possible to process olives also at an early state of ripeness. The often still-green olives are knocked off the trees, in part also picked, caught in the nets, and immediately brought to the mill. This prevents worm infestation and rotting processes, the acid ratio is regularly below 0.5%, and the oil is more fruity, aromatic, and fresh.

Today, the area around Imperia has committed itself to the production of high-quality olive oil. In Germany, olive oils from Dolcedo and the Val Prino can exclusively be found at upscale gourmet shops for 18-59 €/l. The production varies no more than the level of quality of the oil. Every oil produced according to the new method is called “extra vergine”. Today, one differentiates between soil and climatic situations. These give the oil different nuances of flavour. Since the focus on quality, the tiresome cultivation has become worthwhile again. The olive growers have more responsibility for delivering high-quality olives for processing, and the oil millers pay close attention to having a very high quality. The olive harvest begins in Dolcedo in mid-October and goes until mid-December.

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