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Nearly 50% of olive oils in the world are produced in Spain, with 25% of the entire olive oil growing areas and over 260 endemic varieties. Almost 50% of the production is exported, which means that 1 of each 2 bottles in the world contain Spanish olive oil. Harvesting season will start in autumn, which gives us the perfect excuse to invite you to come to Spain and discover the leading production regions, visit olive oil mills and experience a gastronomical tasting.

Source: Turismo Provincia de Jaén

Designation of Origin & the importance of varieties

Denominaciones de Origin (DO)

Denominación de Origen (Designation of Origin) is a seal a seal that recognizes extra-virgin olive oils produced in a specific area with particular olive varieties and under very strict production and quality standards.  There are 29 DO in Spain, with Andalusia and Catalonia leading the ranking. In Andalusia, Jaén region gathers 20% of DOs.

Varieties

More than 200 varieties of olives are grown in Spain, each one with its own unique flavours and aromas: Picual is the most extended variety in the world and its name refers to the fruit’s pointed tip shape; Picudo, one of the great Andalusian varieties, with significant presence in the provinces of Córdoba, Granada, Málaga and Jaén; Arbequina, characteristic of Catalonia (Tarragona and Lleida) and Alto Aragon, although its growth has spread to practically the entire country, and we could continue with the 26 sorts that complete the DO list.

Source: Olive Oils of Spain

Olive oil, the liquid gold, a treasure dating back to Ancient Greece

Olive oils had a leading role in the economy of Ancient Greece, who began to produce and sell throughout the Mediterranean.

“The liquid gold”, as the Ancient Greeks referred to it, was introduced in Spain by the Phoenicians for 3000 years ago but it was the Romans who spread the oil groves across their colonies. As a result of its expansion into the Iberian peninsula, olive oils produced in Spain became most appreciated throughout the Roman Empire and Spanish olive groves fed the commerce throughout the same.

Spanish olive oil production regions

Large extensions of olive trees can be found in 34 regions across Spain. Among them, one area outstands above the others, Jaén, known as the “world’s capital of olive oil”.

andalucia – Jaén

The Andalucian region occupies the southern third of the peninsula, and it produces approximately 75% of the total olive oil produced in Spain.
With a typical Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers, winters with mild temperatures, and irregular precipitation, throughout the year many areas of Andalucia enjoy over three thousand hours of sunlight.
The production of olive oil is concentrated primarily in the provinces of Jaén and Córdoba. It is interesting to note that the province of Jaén produces more olive oil than all of Greece, another large producer of olive oil in the world.
The types of olives cultivated in Andalucia for the production of oil are: Picual, Hojiblanca, Lechín, Verdial and Picudo.

This beautiful area of Spain is the perfect place to combine gastronomy & cultural heritage. Only 1 hour from Granada, you can enjoy olive oil routes, visits to “almazaras” (mills where olives are crushed), tasting & gastronomy experiences, while you let yourself be charmed by two cities full of history, Úbeda and Baeza, World Heritage Sites awarded by the UNESCO. These 2 small towns retain a 500-year old charm, with churches, palaces and museums, in an urban setting surrounded by a landscape of olive groves.

Andalucia – Córdoba

The province of Córdoba, is home to four different DO: “Bae­na”, “Priego de Córdoba”, “Montoro Adamuz” and “Aceites de Lucena”. In numerous villages it is possible to organize virgin olive oil tasting sessions and gui­ded visits. A must is Hornachuelos Nature Reserve, home to more than 100,000 ha. of oil groves.

Combine oleotourism and cultural heritage. Visit oil mills and small villages with ancient production history and take the chance to discover the fantastic heritage Córdoba city offers, with the impressive Mosque to its historic charming old town plenty of beautiful palaces and famous “patios”.

Castilla La Mancha

The Castilla – La Mancha region is located in the center of the peninsula, to the south of Madrid. This region produces about 14% of the total olive oil produced in Spain. With 4 designations of origin, the production of olive oil extends to the southeast of the region, concentrating in the provinces of Toledo and Ciudad Real.

The variety of olive that is cultivated in this community for the production of oil is Cornicabra, although in the southern region bordering Andalucia there are small areas that cultivate the variety known as Picual.

The historic city of Toledo may be the best known area of this region but, not only this UNESCO site is attractive. When we speak olive oil, the DO Montes de Toledo is a must. Its history with production goes back to Phoenician and Greek colonisations, that brought Cornicabra variety, which results in a production of an olive oil with remarkable health properties within cell aging and heart diseases.

Visit Mora and enjoy the “Fiesta del Olivo” in Mora, declared of National Tourist Interest, or the Virgin-Extra Olive Oil Fair. In this town, you will also be able to visit the Museo del Aceite, which keeps a collection of pieces to transmit the culture they witnessed, through the history and different periods, the olive tree, the olive and the olive oil; its uses, the farming olive elements and the machines to obtain it; the contrast of a 19th century oil mill with the 20th century ones. It Is structured divided in three rooms: container room (strainers, jugs, oil bottles), weights and measure room (weighting scales, steelyards and measure traditional system) and rural culture room (it shows the farmhouse with traditional jobs of the rural environment). We will end the visit with the tasting we all are waiting for: taste different varieties, visita an almazara and enjoy a walk through the olive tree fields.

Source: Turismo de Castilla-La Mancha

Catalonia

The Catalonian Community occupies the northeast corner of the peninsula and produces approximately 4% of the total olive oil produced in Spain. It is the second region in number of DO, with 5 designations, and production extends throughout the western region, bordering Aragón. The types of olives cultivated in Catalonia for the production of oil are Fraga, Empeltre and Arbequina.

Places not to be missed are: the olive oil eco-museum in Pobla de Cèrvoles; Castelldans olive oil museum; Uldecona’s greatest collection of thousand-year-old olive trees in the world and the olive oil theme parl in les Borges Blanques. A must not to be missed when speaking about gastronomy in this region is its famous pà amb tomàquet (sliced bread rubbed with tomato and topped with virgin olive oil as its best).

Olive oil products benefits go far beyond gastronomy. Did you know that olive oil is a great product for moisturising and exfoliating the skin? For years it has been applied as part of beauty treatments in various Catalan spas. What are you waiting for to live the olive oil experience?

Source: Agència Catalana de Turisme

Olive oil and gastronomy

Many are the travellers who when asked about “the best of Spain” respond sharply: “the food”. The importance of production of extra virgin olive oil and the boast of production of an excellent product has pushed Spanish gastronomy to a leading place in the world.

A tour to regions we introduced in this post will give you the needed knowledge about the common categories of Spanish olive oil and  you will be be ablre to pick out the one that best suits your needs.

With a strong flavour, extra virgin olive oil is the best choice to dress a salad or other cold dishes and it is the oil you will most find topping a cold tapa. It’s the best Spanish olive oil for preparing traditional Mediterranean dishes that are sauteed or pan-seared, too. But you do not want to use extra virgin olive oil to prepare fried dishes. It has a heavier taste and a lower smoke point. Instead, let’s use refined olive oil, the most basic, with a lighter taste and a higher smoke point that better withstands heat. Also, make sure to use the oil and not keep the bottle open for too long. Once opened, the olive oil should be used within a few months.

Source: Spain.info

 

Source: Mundo Agrario

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While culinary culture was always there as a side benefit, it has developed to the new reason why we’re traveling. And where can you have better food holidays than in the food mecca Spain – a country full with different flavors, delicious food, great restaurants and the famous local markets?

Gastronomy markets in Spain have always been the epicenter of civic life and a labyrinth of the freshest fruits, vegetable, meat and fishes. Hosted in historic buildings in the heart of the cities, some markets are no longer only offering local products but have developed to outstanding culinary experiences with a great variety of gourmet and crafts options and sometimes even live music. With their great culinary diversity, they are also the perfect food supplier for better restaurants in Spain.

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La Boqueria Market in Barcelona, (source: SuiteLife)

Gastronomy markets are a great way to get an insight into the food traditions of Spain. Sip a beer at the market of San Miguel, explore the wonderful market of Chamberí or stand around at the trendy food market San Anton to experience Madrid’s most popular and unique markets.

Market of San Miguel belongs to the gastronome of San Miguel society whose aim is to improve the traditional activity. La Boquería of Barcelona used as inspiration, the market focuses on high quality products, seasonal food and offering samples.

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Market of San Miguel in Madrid, (source: Spain Attractions)

The traditional market Chamberí, which has been operating for almost 70 years, is one of Madrid’s best known markets due to its great quality and variety of products. While it started as a food market, it has been modernized and features now also other services.

The biggest market in Madrid Maravillas is known for its fresh products which are great presented and of high quality. Maravillas is not only outstanding because of its architecture, numerous facilities and professional treatments by its merchant but also because the focus lays on developing eco-sustainable products.

The recently inaugurated San Antón Market in the heart of Chueca represents a new generation of markets with its recycling system. Spreading across three floors and focusing on perishable goods, wine, takeaway services and restaurant areas, the market is an absolute highlight.

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San Antón Market, (source: Pinterest)

Covered in high quality and well known markets, Barcelona is the perfect city to get back to basics and shop the old fashioned way at gastronomy markets. With markets such as Fira Artesana, Santa Caterina market and the famous La Boqueria market, the city offers a great variety and something for everybody.

Fira Artesana opens its doors on the first Friday and Saturday of every month and is specialized in homegrown and homemade products. With its nickname “the honey market”, it has turned into a small jewel of Barcelona.

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Santa Caterina Market, (source: BarcelonaHome)

As the first permanent covered market in Barcelona, Santa Caterina market is not only of great historic importance but also the perfect place to shop fresh fish, meat and delicious pastries. Moreover, the market features several restaurants to enjoy a beer with tapas, a perfect activity for a Sunday afternoon.

La Boqueria market, one of the most prestigious markets in the world, is an official landmark of Barcelona with over 800 years of history. The famous market is always busy and a hotspot for tourists as it offers everything a heart desires.

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La Boqueria Market, (source: Suites Life)

Known as the centers of gastronomy markets, Barcelona and Madrid feature the most famous food markets in Spain. However, other markets such as the central market in Valencia, the famous La Bretxa in San Sebastian and the gourmet market Lonja del Barranco in Sevilla are also must-see’s for food lovers. Experience a culinary journey through Spain and learn why Spanish food markets are treats for everybody when booking a gastronomy tour with us!

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Spain has so much to offer, it’s a country full of traditions and gastronomy is one of them.
It is a fact that Spain is known for its tapas (small portions of fresh regional and local dishes based on meat or fish and other unique ingredients), but the gastronomy in Spain has been on a culinary high in recent years, more and more restaurants are receiving Michelin stars.

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tapas selection (source: San Sebastian Turismo)

Spain has now 182 restaurants included in the Michelin guide: nine restaurants with three stars, 23 with two stars and 150 with one Michelin star. As an example, Madrid boasts 14 restaurants with Michelin stars, DiverXO being the only one with three stars.

The Basque Country is a region blessed by Michelin stars. Especially San Sebastian features various gastronomic highlights. Three of nine three Michelin stars restaurants of Spain can be found in this city. This fact makes San Sebastian the city with the most Michelin stars per square meter in the world. The four most starred restaurants in San Sabastian are: Akelarre (***), Arzak (***), Martín Berasategui (***) and Mugarritz (**).

This year, the chef Martín Berasategui has received three Michelin stars for one of his restaurants for the second time. It happened for the first time in the country’s history. He is the ninth chef in Spain to be granted the illustrious Michelin ranking. The Spanish chef has a total of eight Michelin stars, making him the most decorated chef in Spain.

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chef Martín Berasategui (source: Castellon en fiestas)

Moreover, the restaurant El Celler de Can Roca in Girona has three Michelin stars. The three Roca brothers are fond of cooking, they decided to open a restaurant specialized in traditional Catalan cooking. In 2013 and 2015, their restaurant was named the world’s best restaurant.

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the Roca brothers (source: El Celler Can Roca)

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El Celler Can Roca restaurant (source: Gastroeconomy)

 

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Madrid, San Sebastian and Girona

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Olive oil is deeply rooted in the Spanish history and culture. It is known that the olive tree was brought to the Peninsula by the Phoenicians and the Greeks. Later, the Romans and Arabs improved the techniques of production. As a result of a stable, thousand-year-old tradition, today Spain is the major producer and exporter of olive oil in the world.

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extra virgin olive oil (source: Diario ABC) 

The olive harvesting season starts around the end of November and the olive oil production mainly takes place during the winter months, from November to March. If you decide to visit Spain during these months, it is the perfect opportunity to learn about the world of olive oil.

Andalusia is the largest olive oil producer in Spain as well as full of cultural heritage sites. So why not combine a cultural and gastronomic tour?

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olive harvesting (source: Junta de Andalucia)

Visit Sevilla, the artistic, cultural and financial capital of Andalucia. The city is a historical hub, well known for its Muslim heritage and its gastronomy. Spend some time visiting the ancient “El Vinculo” mill and taste the olive oil that is produced there in a guided tasting tour. This olive oil mill was built in 1755 and until today it produces extra virgin olive oil in the traditional way.

Granada, once the capital of the Moorish kingdom, houses the most known Spanish monument: Alhambra Palace and the Generalife Gardens. While visiting this historical city, step by the Almazara Nuñez de Prado olive oil mill. This mill is run by the 7th generation of the Nuñez Prado family and it is housed in a traditional Andalusian farmstead building. It counts with an oil storage room that keeps the oil in the original jars from the 18th century.

Finally, Jaen is the olive oil region by excellence. Its landscape is marked by olive oil trees and as soon as you enter the province, you can smell the characteristic smell of them. the extremely fine quality of extra virgin olive oil produced in Jaén, results from practices passed down through generations of olive farmers, refining the art of virgin oil extraction. In Jaen, you can visit the olive oil visitor centre. it offers tours to introduce visitors to every aspect of olive oil production. the itinerary takes in everything, from the olive groves through to the actual production process of the olive oil, and explores its history, its relation with local gastronomy and its numerous health benefits.

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castle, Jáen Province (source: Junta de Andalucia)

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In the month of November, the Spanish cities start to prepare for Christmas and the most festive season of the year. During this time, the shopping centres, shop windows and streets are decorated with lights and various types of Christmas decorations. In addition, the stores are filled with toys and presents and the best Christmas offers start to be available. This season is without doubts one of the best and most interesting ones to visit Spanish cities during the colder months.

The most typical Spanish Christmas decoration is probably the nativity scene that represents the birth of Jesus Christ and is a Catholic tradition. As well as the typical Christmas tree, the nativity scene can be found at homes, shops, churches and on the streets, where it is sometimes even represented by real persons and animals. A famous example is the nativity scene at Plaza del Pilar in Zaragoza that is set up next to the cathedral.

During the Christmas season, many Spanish cities offer special winter activities for locals and visitors. The popular Christmas markets, full of delicious snacks and handicrafts, can be found in places like Plaza Mayor in Madrid, in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona, at Plaza Nueva in Sevilla and Calle Bailén in Bilbao.

Furthermore, ice-skating rinks are becoming more popular every year. If you are looking for a break from your Christmas shopping, ice skating could be a great option. The ice rinks normally are decorated in a very beautiful and festive way. Some examples are the ice rinks at Plaza de Colon in Madrid, at Plaza de Ayuntamiento in Alicante and at Plaza de Ayuntamiento in Valencia, the most famous one.

Of course, Christmas season would not be the same without the numerous typical delicacies. One of the most famous Spanish Christmas sweets is turrón, an almond-based nougat. The nougat comes in all sorts of varieties, from the classic Jijona and Alicante turrón, to toasted egg yolk or chocolate turrón. There are some shops that are specialized in turrón, like Casa Mira in Madrid. Here, all the products are still handmade, using the finest ingredients in the traditional way without preservatives or artificial colourings.

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turrón (source: Turismo de Jijona)

Other traditional sweets are marzipan, polvorones (soft and very crumbly Spanish shortbread with nuts), roscos de vino (a type of donut with wine, lemon zest and sesame), mantecados (a sweet pastry made with lard, mixed with ingredients like cinnamon, almonds, chocolate or lemon) and peladillas (sugar-coated almond dragees). A very traditional store, where you can find any type of sweets is Casa Gispert, which is one of the oldest food stores in Barcelona. Its speciality has always been the same: roasted nuts, and its wood fire oven is Europe’s oldest, still-functioning roaster.

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marzipan (source: Turismo de Jijona)

A part of the Spanish Christmas season is also New Year’s Eve. This night is celebrated with parties and fireworks together with the family or friends. The highlight of the night occurs at 23h59, when everyone follows the twelve strikes of the bells, officially transmitted by television from Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Every strike is accompanied by eating a “lucky grape”. According to traditions this will lead to a year of prosperity. If you spend this night in Spain, you should not miss this special tradition.

Finally, the Christmas season in Spain ends on 6 January with the Día de los Reyes Magos, the Three Kings’ Day. On 5 January, most Spanish cities organize colourful parades, mainly directed to children, to celebrate the arrival of the three kings. During the parade, sweets are thrown to the children. This night is a very exciting night for Spanish children as they leave their polished shoes together with food and milk for the kings and their camels. The next day their presents appear under their shoes and the food is gone. On this day it is also a tradition to eat the roscón de reyes, a toroid shaped cake, decorated with dried candied fruits and filled with cream or chocolate.

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