Tasting Mediterranean

Wine & Olive Oil

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A trip through Alentejo makes it obvious, the importance that olive-oil production holds for Portugal. The endless vistas of the Portuguese backcountry are interrupted only by cork oaks and olive trees; a surface measuring some 150,000 hectares is planted with olive groves. The knotty trunks with their dark crowns of leaves provide the landscape here with one of its most characteristic features.

Never a meal without olive oil

For centuries now, olive oil has been an important and self-evident part of everyday life in Portugal, and a vital ingredient in Portuguese cuisine. In the same way that in other cultures salt and pepper or soy sauce are always found on the dinner table, in Portugal it is a canister or a cruet of olive oil. The famous refogado, made from onions and garlic chopped fine and sautéed in olive oil, forms the basis for many Portuguese dishes.

Find out more on the history of olive oil.

And it depends upon the variety

The flavour of Portuguese olive oils is extremely diverse; there are countless different varieties of olive tree growing here. The most representative types are Galega, Cobrançosa, Cordovil, Verdeal and Madural.

Find out more about the various varieties of olive.

Precious and valuable

Alentejo is the most important growing region for olive oil in Portugal. Some two thirds of Portuguese olive oil is produced in Alentejo, followed by Trás-os-Montes with 15% and Ribatejo with 6% of total production. In all of Portugal there are six protected appellations of origin for olive oil (Denominação de Origem Protegida – DOP) of which three are located in Alentejo: Azeite do Norte Alentejano, Azeite de Moura und Azeite Alentejo Interior). The remaining DOP-regions are Azeite de Trás-os-Montes, Azeite do Ribatejo and Azeite da Beira Interior.

Find out more about the DOPs and the quality seals of olive oil.

Neither shaken nor stirred

It is precisely because the climate in Portugal is ideal for the growing olive trees, that many olive oil producing areas in the country qualify for a protected designation of origin. Of course these designations of protected origin are reserved for just the high-quality olive oils – virgin and extra virgin.

The prerequisite for production of virgin and extra virgin olive oils stipulates that the oil must be made by a mechanical process at low temperature. When the right growing conditions meet with quality of processing, it is relatively easy to make high quality olive oil. Learn here how this is done:

Find out more about the production of virgin and extra virgin olive oil.