Wikispanishfood.com editorial team
They say the sacred trilogy of Mediterranean cuisine is bread, wine and oil. It would be difficult to put them in order of importance, but zeit (oil in Arabic) is surely the true essence of our thousand-year tradition and perhaps the most decisive contribution to this culture
Castilian and Portuguese were the first languages to call this dietary treasure "oil". The Italians call it olio, the French huile, and the Catalans oli, all of which derive from the Latin word oleum
Bread with olive oil is the simplest way to enjoy "liquid gold", a product of outstanding quality and variety in Spain and which has gone unnoticed on dinner tables and in kitchens for centuries, when all the while it has been a real boon to the palate and to our health. Since the beginning of Mediterranean civilizations, olive oil has been an essential part of the diet, either as a basic ingredient or as a condiment.
Our flagship oil
The flagship oil is Extra Virgin, of which there are as many kinds as there are olives, and even those oils made from the same olives reflect geographic nuances depending on where they come from. As is the case with wines, there are single-variety oils (Picual, Arbequina, Picuda, Cornicabra, Empeltre, Hojiblanca, etc.) and coupages (blends), where two or more types of olives are used in varying proportions. With so many different options, it's difficult to say which is the best, and people from all regions of Spain—Andalusia, Catalonia, Castile-La Mancha, Levante and Aragón—all claim that their oils take top honors.
Olive oil is a very unique fat; no other oil surpasses it in terms of gastronomic, nutritional and dietary qualities. Spain is the world's leading producer. There are currently around 22 Designation of Origins and Protected Geographical Indications in Spain.
Oil is the juice from the olive; this fat is obtained directly, without applying heat and solely through mechanical pressure, making it the most natural oil around, not to mention an outstanding ingredient and the best condiment in cooking. It also offers countless nuances that enrich foods, both raw and cooked. In cooking, it goes a lot farther than other vegetable oils: it's more resistant when used for frying and maintains its healthy qualities. In recent times, it has been identified as an essential component of a healthy diet.
Four different gustatory qualities
It's important to try at least the following four types of olive oil to sample its gustatory qualities: fruity, smooth-ripe, intense-fruity and intense-ripe. It's worth noting that there is no standard type of olive oil, since the characteristics of the soil and weather, the different olive varieties, the collection system and the oil production process give rise to an infinite number of different oils. In Spain alone, there are more than 260 varieties of olives.
The same revolution that took place 30 years ago in the wine sector is now occurring in the olive oil industry. Quality has improved notably in Spain in just a few years. And all Spanish cuisine—both modern and traditional—is based on olive oil. The diversity of aromas, flavors and colors of oils yields a broad range of sensations, a marvelous kaleidoscope of possibilities to be savored. To learn more about the variety of oils, we propose a few places in Madrid where you can experience their diversity and quality first-hand. Once there, your best bet is to let your imagination run wild and taste as many different kinds as you can.
We recommend that you don't mix different kinds of oils, and that you choose the one you like best. It's a wonderful product that is a food, a cosmetic, a medicine and a fuel.
PATRIMONIO COMUNAL OLIVARERO. Mejia Lequerica, 1 Tfno. 915 080 505 www.pco.es
MANTEQUERIAS BRAVO. Ayala, 24. Tfno. 915 758 072 www.bravo1931.com
EL CLUB DEL GOURMET. Callao, 2 Tfno. 913 798 000
LA CHINATA. Calle Mayor, 44. Tfno. 911 527 008 www.lachinata.es
ESPAÑA EN LA MESA. Guzmán el Bueno 82. Tfno. 915 358 878 www.espanaenlamesa.com