Premium olive oil

\\ Text Maria Cruz
\\ Photography © Monterosa

In Portugal there are around 12 premium olive oil producers.

In recent years the nation’s olive oil sector has enjoyed somewhat of a boom, with Portuguese producers winning a raft of international distinctions. Setting its sights on high quality products has brought Portugal many awards. The national market has had its curiosity piqued, eager to learn just why they’re winning abroad, and the answer is simple. At the moment the final consumer already considers olive oil as a product of extreme dietary importance, and to satisfy your curiosity, with regard to the manufacture process behind some of the finest olive oils, we came to take a closer look at the producer of one of the best olive oils, which has won the most awards in 2016 – Monterosa. In the last four years, the team at Monterosa has competed in several competitions, bringing awards back home with them. During last year alone, they won on the North American continent in two competitions, in New York and Los Angeles. China, Japan, Germany and Spain also saw Monterosa’s extra virgin olive oil conquer awards. It was an incredible year.

But what does this olive oil have that others do not? This is a very special product, in which every step has to be made so as to ensure the height in quality can be achieved. Attention to detail is crucial. The estate has its own olive grove and mill, certified by an integrated production system, or in other words, every practice and product is environmentally friendly. All residue resulting from this activity is recycled. The olive pomace, is later transformed into natural fertilizer, which then gets used to fertilize the olive grove. Everything is based on a natural process, in which there is no place for chemicals. One of the secrets behind the quality of this olive oil lies in the olive picking process, as there are, on average, just three hours separating the moment the olive is picked and when it is pressed. This results in a truly fresh olive oil and in heightened quality. Swiftness makes all the difference in the process because «it helps determine a lower degree of acidity, and a freshness that is much higher than is usual», assures us António Duarte, facilitator and promoter in Monterosa’s commercial and tourism department.

Olive oil production

\\ Photography © Monterosa

An oil proof

\\ Photography © Monterosa

Tourists can enjoy a free guided tour of the estate, followed by a tasting session of Monterosa olive oil.

Monterosa produces five varieties of olive oil, all made from olives grown on the 20 hectares of olive grove of the Quinta Horta do Félix. The differences between them, apart from olive variety and blend, include harvest time. The harvest normally takes place in the month of September and goes on for two months. This is how long it takes for the olive oil to be ready to be sold. The olive oil has to rest a little, before being consumed, because for high quality production, the olive needs to be picked by hand, while still very green, «because this ensures a higher concentration of vitamins and antioxidants in the olive oil, which is what is intended in the quality of the olive oil, thus bringing health benefits», explains António.

Of all the varieties produced by Monterosa, the most popular, which has enjoyed the best results internationally in the last four years, is Maçanilha Algarvia (an olive variety from the eastern Algarve, which gives rise to an olive oil of medium intensity). The estate’s total olive oil production reaches ten thousand litres. But the aim is to double this amount in the coming years. Part of this production remains in Portugal, for the hotel and restaurant industries, while about 80% is destined for the export market.

Monterosa Farm

\\ Photography © PMC

Quinta Horta do Félix, the estate on which the olive grove is planted, belongs to Monterosa nurseries, which since 1974 has been operated in the ornamental plants sector, and more recently aromatic plants.

This is all began some years ago. What was once an orange grove, what transformed into an olive grove, due to a lack of water, with 5,400 olive trees planted in 2000. Firstly the orange trees were removed. Research showed the location would be ideal for four varieties of Mediterranean trees (which don’t need much water to thrive). The final choice was the olive tree (an ornamental plant). Five years later, in 2005, a small quantity of olive oil was produced. Only in 2009 did the experience, in the true sense of the word, begin. An olive grove, if intelligently farmed, has no end in sight. It will pass down through the generations. As Detlev Von Rosen, the estate’s Swedish producer, proved, and who was involved right up until the last days of his life. Today the property is managed by two Portuguese partners, and a Swedish managing partner, and the part that belonged to Detlev was passed on to his children.