Olive Oil is excellent for your health, as good as it gets, and forms an integral part of the classic Mediterranean diet. Statistics have shown that Mediterranean populations such as Spain, Italy & Greece, have significantly lower rates of coronary heart disease. Olive oil is rich in antioxydants, especially Vitamin E, and phenolic compounds which reduce the chance of cancer and heart disease. For more details on the health benefits of olive oil, look at the International Olive Oil website.
In short, Extra-virgin olive oil should be an important part of everybody’s diet. The “lowest rates of death from coronary heart disease are currently recorded in countries where olive oil is virtually the only fat consumed.” Professor Francisco Grande Covián. A more recent scientific study in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences confirms that accumulating experimental, clinical and epidemiological data support the traditional beliefs of the beneficial effect provided by olive derivates.
Buying our Olive Oil
If you would like some of our oil please look for your choice of bottle size in our shop.
We have other points of sale in the UK and France, see our Links page.
Producing our Olive Oil
Meantime, here is some info on how we produce the oil. We planted our olive trees to conform to the French AOC regulations for top quality oil (see the AFIDOL site, the French national organisation for olive growers; I’m afraid it’s all in French!). However, now we have now moved on and registered for the Organic / Bio label which will cover all our activities at the farm, not just the oil.
French bureaucracy being what it is, the process is long and different products take varying times to qualify as organic: truffles qualify straightaway, since they grow in woodland (which illogically ignores the fact that some people use glyphosate to control weeds in the woods); fruit and veg are all annuals so qualify quickly too, next year 2016, and saffron the same. Only the trees, our olives and fruit trees (and so jams), take longer and will qualify in 2017.
However, we are allowed to say we are “in conversion”, which this is frustrating as we have always followed an organic approach on the farm, using clay powder on the olives against the olive fruit fly rather than pesticides.
At least we are inspected by the organic “police” to see that we are doing what we say. They have visited twice already, whereas after planting our trees in 2007 the AOC ignored us completely till 2014! (Though they did not hesitate to charge us at every opportunity!)
In planting, the key issues are planting distances (which should give a minimum of 30m2 per tree to allow the tree’s branches and roots enough space to breathe and grow), and which varieties are typical in this region. Just as for wine, it is the ground, local conditions, aspect, and the varieties which give the taste. We inherited, or found when we cleared the dense undergrowth, a number of very old trees, mostly the Belgentieroise variety, plus Pardiguier and Cayon, some with huge gnarled trunks over 400 years old, and there were others we haven’t identified.
Local people call these unnamed varieties sauvage (wild) which merely means they are very old and no one can remember what their names were! In fact, all olive trees, the plant species Olea europaea, come from the area of eastern Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. The first olive trees were probably brought to France on Phoenician ships which traded throughout the Mediterranean 3,000+ years ago. So they were all named varieties once and the hundreds of varieties we have now have been developed over the centuries, much as happens with varieties of wheat, apples, or oranges… but taking much more time
In addition to the 100+ ancient olive trees we found, we planted other varieties: mostly Aglandau (France’s most popular olive tree), Cayon and Bouteillan, and then several varieties specifically local to the Var region: Brun; Cayet Roux; Pardiguier; Rougeonne; Picholine and Petit Ribier.
All these have their own characteristics such as rates of growth, resistance to frost or drought, rustic conditions, and different tastes. We “cold” press our olives which means keeping the paste below 27.9 degs C to qualify the oil as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and, depending on when we harvest – how long we leave the fruit on the tree – and the varietal differences, the oil produced may have three quite different categories of taste:
“Fruité vert” – green as its name implies, this oil has subtle hints of fresh mown grass, green apples and raw artichoke with a peppery, catchy aftertaste – it evokes summer, ideal on salads, raw meat such as carpaccio or tartare, fish, pasta and rice dishes.
“Fruité mur” – “mur” which means ripe, gives typical notes of banana, ripe tomatoes, plums, raspberries or strawberries on the nose, and again a peppery freshness to taste – excellent on salads and with fish, it works as well with more mellow flavours such as cooked meat and truffles.
“Fruité noir” – this oil is smooth with none of the piquancy or delicious bitterness of the “fruité vert” and “fruité mur” oils and instead conjures the smells of chocolate, woodland mushrooms and ripe black olives – delicious with truffles and cooked dark meat.
We smell and taste oil same way we do wine, not to drink it, remember, but to use it in the kitchen, in salad dressings or cooking. An oil may be peppery, catch in the throat or even taste bitter but it will transform your grilled fish and make your purée de pommes de terre delicious. And even the finest wine only lasts an evening whereas a bottle of olive oil will enhance all sorts of dishes in your kitchen and last for weeks.
Now we have our own olive mill, we shall experiment next season with single-variety olive oils, from our Bouteillan or Cayon, or to produce fruité mur oil which will complement the truffles we are producing far better than the sharper fruité vert which goes so well with green salads and fish. Or, we may add the essential oils of our homegrown lemons or oranges to produce an oil ready for salad dressings.
All these variations are supported by the organic or Bio label we are obtaining which applies to the whole farm and will cover everything we produce: oil, truffles, saffron or vegetables for our gîte clients in the summer.
A note on olive oil storage… We sell our oils in tins (see our Shop page) which keeps the oil very well for at least two years, but unlike wine olive oil does not improve with age. The oil is perfectly useable but its taste is affected by temperature, light and air – oxidation – which reduces the flavour. So, ideally you should use your olive oil inside two years.
Our reference number with the French authority which controls agricultural products, FranceAgrimer, is: 8367 O/O 2011.