Deep in the heel of the boot of Italy, lays a picturesque little town with miles of olive groves that stretch straight to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Ruvo di Puglia is the heart and soul of some of the most antique and noble olive groves in all of Italy. For extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality, few beat this variety for its flavor and finish.
The province of Puglia in the south of Italy features the Coratina olive. It is this particular variety which has been cultivated for centuries by families of olive growers who respect and perpetuate the traditions of those before them. To understand the uniqueness and integrity of this select specimen, a short tutorial on olive oil seems appropriate.
The olive is a drupe, or stone fruit, much like the cherry or the plum. There are about 700 varieties of olives which each express distinctive tastes and aromas, much like grapes which are processed for wine. You may be more familiar with the green or the black types which can be the same olive, just a different degree of ripeness. For oil, they are harvested just as they begin to turn from green to black and preserved and milled quickly in well-aired spaces to minimize the oxidation and enzymatic reactions which can leave unwanted odors and tastes in the oil.
The olives are washed free of any clinging soil before the crushing or “pressing” is begun. One olive contains from 20 – 25% oil, 35 – 50% water and carbohydrates, proteins, organic acids and enzymes. The pressing is done either with millstones or hammers to obtain the paste Comprar aceite de oliva ecológico which is then stirred, pressed or centrifuged to release the juice. This juice is then centrifuged again to separate the actual oil from the water. There are three categories of oil which come from the pressing process: extra virgin, virgin and lampante virgin olive oil. Lampante can only be used after it has been refined. The residue of olive paste or “olive pomace” is left behind at the mill.
Olive oils are given a sensory score which is influenced by the pressing procedure and the times and temperature at which the oil is clarified. To be classified as extra virgin, the olive oil must have an acidity percentage below 1% and receive a trained tester score above or equal to 6.5 out of 9 according to European Union law. The simple processes of pressing, washing, settling, centrifugation and filtration make the oil immediately edible because its sensory, chemical and physical characteristics are perfect.