The Olive oil

Olive oil and its core have been extracted for more than 8,000 years, and it all began in the eastern Mediterranean. Our olives all go back to the northern Levant and, as with writing, the Phoenicians played an essential role in spreading them in the Mediterranean. Phoenicians and Greeks then brought their planting, care, and oil extraction techniques to southern Italy.

Nowadays most of the olive oil comes from Spain, followed by Italy and Greece …

The production

An olive tree can carry up to 300 kg of olives, depending on physiological conditions such as weather, water supply, age and size. The long-term average yield is between 20 and 30 kg of olives. For one liter of olive oil you need around five kilograms of olives.

When the olives change their color from green to red-purple tones, the harvest time usually begins. The quality of the oil is strongly influenced by the time of harvest, so sometimes there is only a small time window.

With the traditional harvesting method, nets are spread out under the trees and the olives are separated from the branches by light strokes of the stick, the use of combs, etc., this is very time-consuming and labor-intensive and thus represents a significant cost factor in the production of an olive oil. It is more complex Picking by hand, which is mainly practiced by small businesses that do not damage the grapes and want to select carefully in order to produce very high-quality oils. The mechanized harvest is done by vibrating machines, which can only be used in olive groves that are suitable for this use due to their topographical location, tree density and tree pruning. Harvesting and processing should take place within four hours if possible.


The olives are washed in the mill, crushed with the stones and the juice is extracted from the fruit by pressing or centrifugation. The extraction of olive oil can take place in batch operation (traditional process) or in continuous operation (modern process). The latter is becoming more and more popular in Europe for reasons of economy and quality.

The remaining oil can be extracted from the press residue, called pomace, from the press or centrifuge using chemical methods. In order to make this pomace oil marketable, it is mixed with virgin olive oil. The sales name for this product is olive pomace oil.

The Quality

In Europe, olive oil is divided into quality classes. The European regulation 1234/2007 differentiates eight categories for olive oil. These define the quality designations under which olive oil may be sold. The designation extra virgin is a quality label for olive oil.


The taste quality results from

  • the olive variety
  • the condition of the olives such as ripeness, water supply during growth
  • the proportion of rotten and pest-infested fruits
  • the purity of foreign bodies such as leaves, pieces of branches and sawdust
  • the type and duration of storage after harvest until processing
  • the purity of the systems during processing, especially with residues from older batches
  • oxygen exposure during processing
  • further treatment after pressing

When labeling olive oils with the designation “extra virgin olive oil”, the wording must include: “First quality class – obtained directly from olives exclusively using mechanical processes”. Furthermore, an indication of the origin must be given for “extra virgin olive oil” and “virgin olive oil”. Additions such as “cold-pressed”, “first cold pressing” or “cold extraction” are only permitted if the temperature during processing of the olive mass did not exceed 27 ° C. Information on taste and / or odor is only permitted if it is based on the results of a recognized analytical method.

The levels of quality

cat. Product names production method Properties, quality and use
1 extra virgin olive oil Obtained directly from olives exclusively with mechanical processes without the influence of heat (< 40 ° C) Acid content ≤ 0.8%, without sensory defects, suitable for consumption.
2 native olive oil Obtained directly from olives exclusively with mechanical processes without the influence of heat (< 40 ° C) Acidity ≤ 2%, slight defects,
suitable for consumption
3 Lampante oil Acidity > 2%, clearly incorrect
may not be given to consumers,
it has to be refined
4 refined olive oil Acidity ≤ 0.3%, typical taste and odor components of olive oil are missing; may not be given to consumers, but must be processed into “olive oil” (category 5).
5 Olive oil Mixtures of refined olive oil (category 4) with virgin olive oil of categories 1 or 2 Acid content ≤ 1%, the mixing ratio is not specified, so that the proportion of virgin olive oil can be 1–99%. The higher the proportion of virgin olive oil, the more intense the taste.
6 raw olive pomace oil The remaining oil after the first pressing is extracted from the pomace (solid residue from pips, peel and pulp residues) that is left over after pressing / extraction of the olives. The oil is not suitable for consumption and must not be given to consumers, but must be processed into “Refined Olive Pomace Oil” (Category 7).
7 refined olive pomace oil made from raw olive pomace oil through refining Acid content ≤ 0.3%, the oil has no taste and must not be given to consumers, but must be processed into “olive pomace oil” (category 8).
8 Olive pomace oil Refined olive pomace oil (category 7) mixed with virgin oil (category 1 or 2) Acid content ≤ 1%, suitable for consumption. The mixing ratio is not prescribed, so that the proportion of virgin olive oil can be 1–99%. The higher the proportion of virgin olive oil, the more intense the taste.

The art of oil pressing

Excellent olive oil is mainly achieved through one thing … passion for the product. If the oil caresses the throat like a good wine, then you automatically know that it is something of high quality.

The variety

In the Mediterranean area there are around 1,000 different types of olives, many of which are not suitable for oil production and only for local personal use. Many varieties are also known by multiple names, which often leads to confusion, and The Extra-Virgin Olive Oil Handbook lists 2,000. 860 varieties are listed for olive oil production, 538 of which are in Italy, 262 in Spain, 80 in Turkey, 75 in Syria, 52 in Greece, 44 in Tunisia, 36 in Algeria, 24 in Portugal and 6 in Morocco. The total number of trees is estimated at 850 million, they grow on 8.7 million hectares of land.

Italy had an estimated 250 million olive trees in 2015. Total employment was estimated at 50 million hours worked per year. The industry’s turnover in 2013 was EUR 2 billion, while exports totaled EUR 1.38 billion. With 9.96 kg per capita per year, the Italians were the third largest consumers of olive oil.

Italy has around 300 varieties, with Taggiasca, Coratina and Ogliarola perhaps being the better known. Taggiasca has a very fine olive fragrance with a mild fruity aroma, the aftertaste a mild hint of almonds and pine nuts. The main growing area is Liguria. Coratina has a powerful taste and is found mainly in Puglia. Ogliarola is also found there, but has a delicate herbal scent and is also known as Cima di Bitonto. Leccino, Frantoio and Carolea are widespread. Other varieties processed into oil are in the regions

The Sicilian production already achieved greater importance at the time of Thucydides, who describes olive groves near Syracuse. On the island there was severe neglect among the Romans, but recovery among the Arabs. This is especially true for the Tyrrhenian coast, the Conca d’Oro. In the 15th century there were first specializations in the varieties, such as Frantoio. In the 16th century olives were also grown again between Messina and Palermo. Although the harsh winter of 1789 threw olive cultivation back, exports continued to increase afterwards, whereby the use of oil in the English cloth manufacture played an important role.

Olive varieties by region


Gentile del Chieti


Ogliarola Barese or Paesana
Provenzale or Peranzana
Cellina Barese


Nostrale or Ogliarola
Palmarola or Fasolina
Rapollese di Lavello

Garda lake














Gentile di Larino
Saligna di Larino
Olivastra di Montenero
Cerasa di Montenero
All’acqua di Montenero


Cellina di Nardò
Oliarola di Lecce


Pizz’e Carroga




Frantoio or Razzo
Ogliarola Seggianese


Ascolana tenera
Dolce Agoglia


Due to the high smoke point (filtered, extra virgin olive oil 210 ° C, 190–215 ° C; refined 230 ° C), it is well suited for frying and deep-frying, as has long been done in Italian and Spanish cuisine . The smoke point is higher with good extra virgin olive oils (extra virgin) and lower with low quality virgin olive oils (virgin). The temperatures that arise when frying food containing water are usually much lower. At 180 ° C, however, the antioxidant substances of the phenol and tocopherol groups contained in the oil are destroyed very quickly.

An extra virgin olive oil of high quality, with a low proportion of free fatty acids and a high proportion of phenolic antioxidants, is ideal for frying in terms of health and taste. Extra virgin olive oil is the most stable oil when heated, followed by coconut oil. The statement, often presented as expert knowledge in the media, that one should only use refined and by no means high-quality (extra) virgin olive oil for frying is therefore wrong.

Cold-pressed olive oil was considered a remedy in ancient times, for example against all kinds of skin diseases on the outside, or against inflammation on the inside. It also ranked next to donkey milk as a beauty product. Extra virgin olive oil contains small doses of a natural, non-selective cyclooxygenase inhibitor called oleocanthal, which has anti-inflammatory effects comparable to ibuprofen.

A 2008 laboratory study suggested that consuming olive oil could potentially lead to an increased risk of atherosclerosis and other cardiovascular diseases because of its high levels of oleic acid. The German Heart Foundation contradicts this:

“Test tube studies do not take normal biological processes such as digestion and metabolism into account […] therefore one […] cannot derive any dietary recommendations. […] Olive oil – preferably extra virgin or extra virgin – is still recommended as part of a balanced Mediterranean diet in order to reduce the risk of developing vascular diseases or to favorably influence their course. “

The properties


Olive oil, like other oils, is a mixture of Trieste glycerine. Olive oil consists mainly of fatty acids (triglycerides) bound to glycerine. In olive oil there are 55–83% oleic acid, 7–20% palmitic acid, 3–21% linoleic acid, 0–5% stearic acid and 0–4% palmitoleic acid. It also contains small amounts of phospholipids, carotenoids, α-tocopherol and about 300 IEProvitamin A. Natural olive oil contains oleocanthal and oleoropein – two antioxidants that are said to have a number of health benefits.


Flavor components

Olive oils contain a variety of substances that determine the aroma. These include various aldehydes, terpenes, alcohols and esters. These components can be determined by coupling chromatographic methods with mass spectrometry and headspace analysis. Volatile thiols could also be identified in this way. Olfactory examinations are used in addition. The examination of the aroma components is also used for quality assurance and control.

General properties

The color tones of an olive oil can vary from green-brownish to light yellow, depending on the substances contained in the olives and the state of ripeness. The color has no influence on the quality of an oil. In the unfiltered state, the oil can also be cloudy. The oil melts or solidifies at –5 to –9 ° C and is not soluble in water. Virgin olive oil is a purely natural product. Olive oil is composed of 77% monounsaturated, 9% polyunsaturated and 14% saturated fatty acids. The ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids (P / S quotient) in olive oil is well below the recommended value of 1.0.

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