“Traditional methods are more respectful.”
Spanish olive oil has many ambassadors. Award-winning chefs create 9-course menus from this ‘liquid gold’ to demonstrate how to incorporate the traditional flavour of Mediterranean food into modern gourmet cuisine. Selecting the right oil is an art. Tastings, similar to wine tastings, are now being used to introduce customers to their finer points. There are some 700 varieties of olive worldwide and the oils extracted from them are divided into the following categories: light, medium and intensely fruited. Europe is a major player here, as it produces 80 percent and consumes 75 percent of all the olive oil produced worldwide. Spain is the largest producer of olive oil, followed by Italy and Greece. In Mallorca, olive farmers are attaching increasing importance to the organic label on their products. DELUXE interviewed gourmet expert Deborah Piña-Zitrone about the exclusive extra virgin olive oil produced by the organic finca Son Moragues in Valldemossa.
Mrs. Piña-Zitrone, you have been offering olive oil tastings at Son Moragues since the end of last year. How do you explain the great difference in taste between the oil of Son Moragues and others from the region?
For me, what I think is truly special about Son Moragues is the fact that it produces modern olive oil while maintaining old fashioned methods of cultivation.
The agricultural work at Son Moragues is very hard. It is impossible to mechanize the agricultural process on a mountain estate like Son Moragues. But despite being harder, slower and less efficient, these traditional methods are much more respectful of the trees and the fertility of the soil, and so you get much better flavoured, healthier fruit.
At Son Moragues we have also begun to harvest our olives earlier in the year than the old-fashioned way in the mountains. This means that the olives produce less oil, but it is healthier and tastier. We also have our own oil press on the estate, right next to the olive groves. So the olives are truly in their optimum state and full of their healthy compounds, which they transmit to the oil along with the characteristic organoleptic properties of young green olives: spiciness and bitterness.
This is how we obtain our characteristically complex and sophisticated oil with its high green fruitiness and aromatic notes of apple, grass, leaf and almond. It is velvety in the mouth with a medium balanced spiciness and bitterness.
Our oil truly stands out from the crowd and is clearly differentiated from the Island’s fashion of sweet oils; sweet, in olive oil tasting terms, meaning a lack of bitterness and spiciness, two traits that give an oil a strong personality.
True extra virgin olive oil is a rarity, only about 20 percent of the world’s production is of this standard. How do you achieve this high quality?
When olives are picked they become very susceptible to the oxidation process, losing their vitamins and gaining acidity, which is why they are selected and processed as quickly as possible; and this is where having a modern, state-of-the-art olive press in the middle of our ancient olive groves comes in useful. We pick by hand, selecting the healthiest olives and protecting them from direct sunlight as much as possible and processing the fruit immediately. These are cold pressed in the centrifuge at a temperature below 27ºC, and the oil is kept away from direct contact with the air to prevent oxidation and to maintain the lowest possible acidity. During the growth and ripening stages of the fruit (June/July to October) we treat out trees with an organic Kaolin clay treatment, which protects the fruit from the sun’s direct, abrasive rays and more importantly protects it from the olive fruit fly (Bactrocera Oleae) which every year devastates organic olive production across the Mediterranean. In this way, with the pampering and attention to detail that only artisan techniques allow combined with the best of modern organic agriculture, we produce olives of extremely high quality which guarantee oil of exceptional nutritional and organoleptic qualities.
Son Moragues is an organic finca, how do you go about cultivating, harvesting and producing the oil?
At Son Moragues we follow the strictest European Legislation for Organic Agriculture in all our processes. We respect our environment and the fertility of our soil, optimizing our resources and staying clear of all kinds of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Olive cultivation requires the trees to be pruned during the winter months, and at Son Moragues different areas of the estate’s olive groves are pruned every year to keep an ongoing cycle which guarantees our annual production. This is done by hand following very similar techniques to centuries ago, just adjusted to the best developments in ecology and sustainability. Apart from that we use the Kaolin clay during the stages of fruit growth and ripening, as I mentioned before, and we place small pheromone fly traps on some of our trees to fight the olive fruit fly.
All our cropping is done one hundred percent manually due to the difficult access of our terrain. The olives are placed in ventilated boxes (very similar to the ones used over the centuries) containing a maximum of 20kg each, and are taken immediately to the on-site press. The oil is always extracted just minutes after picking, in our own estate press. This allows us to control the finest details of the process and always maintain the highest of standards.
Son Moragues oil is quite expensive, and it should be kept it in a dark place and consumed quickly. Why do you give this advice?
When we buy high quality extra virgin olive oil it is very important to know how to keep it and how to use it, so we can conserve all its beneficial traits for as long as possible.
Extra virgin olive oil is a natural product which evolves over time. The difference from other products like wine, which can improve over time, is that olive oil is a very delicate product that can deteriorate rapidly if we don’t know how to keep it.
Light and high temperatures affect olive oil negatively by speeding up the natural oxidation process.
Dark thick glass, like that of our Son Moragues bottle, protect the oil from one of its main enemies: light. It is also important to protect it from air and heat, which is why the best place is in a dry, dark, cool cupboard. The bottle must always be properly closed to avoid exposure to oxygen that would cause the oil to deteriorate.
Another thing to take into account is that once the bottle has been opened, it should be consumed relatively quickly. You can’t keep an open bottle of excellent olive oil all year waiting for that special occasion, because when it arrives the oil will have lost its personality. This is why I say that the best occasion is always right now.
Olive oil is very healthy, it is the best tolerated of all oils and prevents serious diseases. The important phenols are only present in genuine extra virgin olive oil. Can they be found in Son Moragues oil?
Yes, of course. Extra virgin olive oils in particular — like Son Moragues olive oil — contain phenolic compounds that have a natural anti-oxidant effect and are particularly good for your health. The refining process removes most of these polyphenols, which is why many oils described as olive oil do not have the same properties as extra virgin olive oil.
Our olive oil is produced exclusively from the Mallorquin variety, whose high phenol content distinguishes it from other varieties of olive. At 698mg/kg, the concentration of phenols in our oils is extremely high. This can also be traced back to the early harvesting of the fruits while they are still very green and contain very high levels of phenolic compounds.
Anyone who tastes our olive oil will be conscious of a bitter taste and an itch in their throat. These characteristics indicate the presence of polyphenols, in particular oleuropein and oleocanthal. The latter is described as a natural Ibuprofen and is responsible for the itching in the throat.
One should remember that bitterness and spiciness are positive qualities in an olive oil. And if these properties work well together then we can assume that we are dealing with a very healthy product.
Your product range also includes tomato and orange marmalade. Do these products contain oil from Son Moragues?
We have a selection of Mediterranean marmalades — tomato and basil, red onion, Seville orange and lemon. These marmalades contain no olive oil, but they are organically produced with the same care and attention on our own farm. All the fruits and vegetables are local varieties, harvested in their prime to preserve their superior flavour and maintain their high quality.
Editor of DELUXE Mallorca Magazine Birgit Unger organises trips for private groups under the DELUXE Travel label. Find out more at www.deluxemallorca.com.
Visit one of the largest organic fincas on the Island, with exclusive olive oil tastings for small groups. Under expert guidance, you will experience one of the most beautiful organic farms in the west of the Island. Tasting of the exclusive olive oil is held in front of the finca with views of the Tramuntana Mountains. Here a nutritionist will explain how the oil is produced today to comply with modern organic standards, and how it differs from other products. A wonderful three-hour outing. Bookings for groups up to 12 people at email@example.com.