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Understanding Spanish Olive Oil
Photo above by Toya Legido and Tomás Zarza ©ICEX

Spain is the #1 Producer of Olive Oil in the World

Spain is the major source of the world's olive oil. Olive oil from Spain is produced from unique olive varietals grown only in Spain – Picual, Picudo, Cornicabra, Hojiblanca, Arbequina – making the flavor of the olive oil distinct from all others. Spain’s unique olive oils have smooth, vibrant and bold tastes that enhance flavor and infuse depth into any recipe, cuisine or cooking style.

The olive tree was brought to the Iberian Peninsula by the Phoenicians and the Greeks. Olive cultivation was expanded considerably by the Romans, who also improved the techniques of oil production. Olive oil from Hispania was highly regarded by the inhabitants of Old Rome, as well as by the rest of the Roman Empire, that considered it of superior quality.

Later, the Arabs continued perfecting the technique of olive oil production. The importance of the Arab influence is evident by the fact that the Spanish word for oil - aceite - comes from the Arabic - al-zat-, or olive juice. As a result of a stable, thousand-year-old tradition, today Spain is the major producer and exporter of olive oil in the world.

Nevertheless, until a few years ago, Spanish olive oil was relatively unknown since almost all of it was sold by bulk and packaged outside the country. Today, gradually, oil producers, and especially those of the best quality oil, are packaging and placing their own names on the bottles, just as the producers of California wine are now selling more and more of their wine as their own product instead of selling the grapes. This is increasing considerably the knowledge and admiration for Spanish olive oil as an exceptional product.

Chefs in Spain and beyond are showing their appreciation for Spanish olive oil's refined, complex flavor by showcasing it in a number of different ways. Olive oil is used liberally in Spanish cooking, both as a medium for sauteing or frying, but also for drizzling over finished dishes. These days, thanks to innovative technology, chefs are pushing the limits of the texture of olive oil as a means to showcase this ingredient further.

In this seminar, you'll learn about olive oil and also see new, cutting-edge techiques that chefs are using with olive oil. In this first video, meet Chef Dani Garcia from Restaurante Calima in Marbella. Chef Garcia is one of the most innovative chefs in Spain today. Find out his philosophy on cooking, and what influences have played upon his innovation.

Meet Chef Dani Garcia (Flash video, 11:04)

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