A beautiful cold-pressed single estate olive oil from Sparta
“It’s a truly superior oil,” says Marianna from Oliveology, proudly. And that’s exactly what this is: an extra virgin olive oil of the very highest quality, with a beautifully rounded grassy flavour and a hit of pepperiness. Like all of Oliveology’s oils, it is produced on a small organic estate in Sparta using a Greek cultivar called the koroneiki olive. And like all of Oliveology’s oils, its name is taken from the temperature at which those olives are pressed.
The ripeness of the olives and the temperature of the extraction make a significant difference to the character of an oil. “It influences the flavour as well as the nutritional content,” says Marianna. It also determines its best use: some should be reserved only for drizzling and for dressings, while others are more robust and versatile, suitable for baking, frying and grilling. Made by pressing unripe olives at a much cooler temperature than most oils, the 18C is particularly complex, delicate and low in acidity, best drizzled over salads or fish, or simply used for the liberal dipping of the most absorbent bread you can find.
Due to the hardness of the olives and the low temperature at which they are pressed, the 18C oil produces a much smaller yield than riper olives pressed with more heat. Because of this, and the labour-intensive nature of its production, batches are limited and the price relatively high—another reason for ensuring that, whenever it is used, it is one of the true stars of the show. However, Marianna says, “it has always been one of our most popular and precious olive oils.”
The fruits are picked at the start of the olive harvest, which begins in early December. “The young, unripe olives are all selected by hand,” says Marianna. While this demands considerable dedication, hand-picking each olive is essential for the producer to ensure they are not too ripe or bruised. “This is because bruising can cause the oil to have higher acidity, which will result in it going rancid sooner.” The olives are taken to the press within two hours—much quicker than most other oils.
Marianna’s producer is widely respected for the great quality of his oil: “We have collaborated closely over the past decade. His olive oils, olives and olive leaf tea are all produced in the same farm and have been the cornerstones of the Oliveology brand since the very beginning.”
Changeable weather meant that the estate in Sparta experienced a particularly bad harvest in 2018—one of the worst in 40 years. In fact, the conditions were so tough that none of Oliveology’s 27C olive oil, which is made from the ripest olives, could be produced. “I think that sometimes we forget that we are at the mercy of the weather,” says Marianna. “We are just so used to everything being available all year round.” Thankfully, the 18C has made it to market. It is indeed a truly superior oil, and we’re very lucky to have it.