by César Cólliga Martínez, Tasting Panel Chief for the International Olive Oil Council .

As one of the leading experts in the olive oil world, César Cólliga Martínez is our main source of information about olive harvesting and olive oil production. We welcome back César, one of the founders of Carter & Cavero and an olive oil connoisseur, and are pleased to have him share the best of the olive oil and the culinary world with you.

On my most recent trip to Tuscany, it surprised me again how simplicity and high culture blend together there, unlike in any other place in the world. Tuscany, or Toscana in Italian, is located in northern Italy, and is rich and strong in traditions of village life. Tuscany’s cultural roots rise from the time of the Renaissance when its high culture and artistic legacy emerged. The hundreds of small, picturesque villages and towns and the surrounding rolling hills add to the enigma that is Tuscany and make it world-renowned for everything from tourism to architecture to olive oil.

As one of the best-known olive oil producing regions in Italy and the Mediterranean, Tuscany has had a great influence on the olive oil industry. Annually, Tuscany produces approximately 27,000 tons of olive oil that are distributed throughout Italy and the rest of the world. There are seven major areas in Tuscany where the quality of olive oil is closely guarded by D.O.P. (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta) and I.G.P. (Indicazione Geographica Protetta) designations. D.O.P. is a certification issued and guaranteed by the European Union that assures specific food and agricultural products are authentic or made by skilled artisans engaged in producing the designated items in specific regions. A similar designation is the I.G.P. which certifies that the products are guaranteed to be from the region designated. D.O.P. and I.G.P. designations are a source of great pride to olive oil producers. Very few places in the world are awarded these designations of excellence by the European Union.
Some well-known Tuscan olive varietals include Frantoio and Leccino. These olives tend to produce a variety of oils that range in taste from ripened fruit with strong tones of almond and artichoke, to bitter and piquant tones that mellow over time. Olive oil is the only oil that can be consumed immediately after pressing allowing for all the flavors, vitamins and nutrients to remain in the oil.
The care and dedication in the harvesting process given by the olive oil producer will ultimately determine the quality of the oil. First, olives must be collected directly from the trees and can be stored in proper conditions for only a short time before pressing. Crushing must occur within 24 hours of the delivery of the olives to the mill. The olives are then washed in water at room temperature and the oil is extracted solely through mechanical and physical processes, with no heat or chemicals, and with great attention to cleanliness. If all these procedures are followed world class olive oils can be made.

You can visit Carter & Cavero Old World Olive Oil Company at their stores in Red Bank, Pier Village/Long Branch and Palmer Square/Princeton, New Jersey or you can shop online at Carter & Cavero will also be returning to the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park in New York City this holiday season from November 5, 2010 to January 2, 2011.