EVO oil from Puglia: best olive oil in Italy?

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Olive trees in Alberobello, Apulia (Italy)
Photo: Olive trees in Alberobello, Apulia (Italy)

Puglia's olive oil is called 'the gold of Puglia' because the cultivation of the olive trees, from which one of Italy's best extra virgin oils is extracted, is thousands of years old in this Italian region. In Apulia, the cultivation of olive trees has been handed down from generation to generation.

It is no coincidence that 37% of Italian extra virgin olive oil is produced in this region. Muraglia, De Carlo, Galantino, are the most renowned Apulian oil mills in the world.

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Characteristics of Puglian olive oil

The characteristics of Puglia's extra virgin olive oil have made Apulia the largest producer of olive oil in Italy, not just because of the quantity, but perhaps also because of its nutritional qualities and goodness.

The organoleptic qualities of Apulian extra virgin olive oil are characterised by its low acidity, below 0.4 %. Apulian PDO extra virgin olive oil contains oleic acid, tocopherol, a powerful antioxidant, carotenes and vitamin E, which influence the prevention of degenerative diseases.

The outstanding quality of Apulian oil is due, on the one hand, to the olive harvesting technique. This is done almost exclusively by hand. This allows the harvesters to select the fruits to use and discard those that are damaged or affected by disease. This prevents the quality of the olive oil from being compromised by mould and fermentation.

Olive harvest in Apulia, Italy
Photo: Olive harvest in Apulia, Italy

On the other hand, the extraction and processing of the olives takes place in ultra-modern, state-of-the-art olive mills, where an extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality is obtained.

Olive oil extraction is the modern olive mill of Intini in Apulia (Italy)
Photo: Olive oil extraction is the modern olive mill of Intini in Apulia (Italy)

Taste

The taste is slightly bitter and spicy and there is an aftertaste of grass and other vegetables.

Odour

The bouquet has clear vegetal notes of freshly-cut grass, fresh almond and artichoke.

Fruitiness

The characteristics of Apulian olive varieties classify extra virgin olive oil as medium fruity and intense fruity

Colour

Apulian olive oil ranges in colour from deep golden yellow to dark green
Photo: Apulian olive oil ranges in colour from deep golden yellow to dark green

Apulian olive oil ranges in colour from deep golden yellow to dark green. Initially, the colour is darker, but tends to lighten over time.

Some Apulian oils have a turbid appearance: this is due to the fact that they have not been filtered so they do not lose certain particles.

☝Unfiltered olive oil should be consumed quickly, as the lack of filtering can lead to defects, especially sludge.

Apulia’s olive varieties

The olive tree was originally cultivated in Syria. It was then the Phoenician Greeks and Carthaginians who spread its cultivation throughout the Mediterranean basin.

In Italy, the cultivation of olives was introduced around 1000 B.C. by the Greeks in Apulia and immediately took hold, mainly due to the favourable climatic conditions.

The finest olive oils in the world are produced in Italy where there are more than 500 olive cultivars. The great Italian variety of oil olives is the reason why each regional oil has unique organoleptic characteristics. To give an example, the olive oil from Lake Garda has a fruity flavour and aroma very different from that of Puglia.

☝There are almost ten million olive trees in Apulia and there are more than twenty varieties of olives.

This is why Apulia's centuries-old olive trees are called “living monuments” with a specific function: to preserve the balance between flora and fauna. The consequence of this is that Apulian olive presses are of importance not only gastronomically, but also economically, even culturally.

Some Apulian olive varieties, such as Bella di Cerignola, Leccina, Bella di Daunia, are also tasty table olives.

Let us now see which are the main Apulian olive cultivars and where they can be found: Coratina is one of Puglia's oldest and most widespread olive varieties. Today it is cultivated throughout Apulia and also in other areas of southern Italy.

Coratina olives
Photo: From the Coratina olive comes one of the best extra virgin olive oils

The Ogliarola Garganica, with a medium fruity and spicy taste, and the Peranzana, from which, in addition to a fragrant oil, table olives are also obtained, are good for all kinds of preparations. These olives are cultivated in the area around the city of Foggia.

Ogliarola olives
Photo: Ogliarola Garganica is a typical variety of olive from Puglia

This geographical area is also home to the Bella di Cerignola, a large olive with juicy flesh, from which the Bella di Daunia, a table olive protected by the PDO mark, is made.

Going further south, in the province of Bari, we find the Ogliarola or Cima di Bitonto, with a scent reminiscent of almonds, from which a high-quality extra virgin olive oil is made.

Even further south, but still in the province of Bari, the cultivated varieties are the Cima di Mola, the Olivastra and the Leccina: an olive for cooking that is very suitable for adding flavour to your meat or fish recipes.

Apulian olive varieties typical of the Salento region are Ogliarola Leccese, Frantoio, Picholine and Cellina di Nardò, from which a fruity and delicate EVO oil is made.

Finally, there is the Cellina Barese, a table olive particularly suitable for cooking, which is also traditionally used for the production of Salento olive bread.

The sad story of Xylella

For some years now, olive trees in southern Apulia have been falling ill. First they dry out and then they die. A fearsome bacterium is to blame: Xylella fastidiosa.

Xylella is carried by certain insect vectors (the sputacchina, a polyphagous insect whose name derives from the white foam envelope the larvae are covered with). These insects attack the olive tree, causing an infection that prevents nutrients from reaching the olive tree's extremities.

…But how did Xylella find its way to Salento?

Xylella fastidiosa may have reached Apulia in 2008, transported by a coffee plant from Costa Rica.

The territory of Gallipoli was the first to be affected by Xylella, which then quickly infested most of the provinces of Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto. At the beginning of 2018, Xylella reached the province of Bari.

An estimated 21 million olive trees in Puglia have died. In some cases, the olive trees were cut down by humans to prevent the disease from spreading.

This considerable loss of olive trees has affected Puglia's oil production, reducing it by almost 90 per cent according to some estimates.

Puglia's leading olive oil producers

Apulia is undoubtedly considered one of the most important regions in terms of national oil production. Bear in mind that Apulia is home to some 50 million olive trees that allow the production of a tasty olive oil every year, used for seasoning and preparing many Italian recipes.

Let us take a look at the most important oil mills in Apulia.

Frantoio Muraglia

The Muraglia family has been producing extra virgin olive oil for over 80 years.

Muraglia olive oil is extracted cold using traditional methods from olives that are grown directly on the two Muraglia farms.

The range of extra virgin oils offered by this Apulian producer is able to satisfy the most demanding markets. In fact, Muraglia oil is sold in more than 25 countries around the world and is considered one of the best Italian extra virgin oils.

The strength of this oil mill has been its ability to create a modern business model that combines technological innovation and oil-making tradition.

In addition, the EVO oil from Frantoio Muraglia is highly appreciated for its characteristic decorated ceramic bottles. The quality of the olive oil and the beauty of the bottles are the reasons why Muraglia's olive oil is one of the best olive oils to give as a gift.

☝ Worthy of note are the beautiful ceramic oil jars, true collectors' items, with limited edition designs and patterns.
Ceramic olive oil jars by Muraglia
Photo: Muraglia's wonderful ceramic olive oil jars.

Olio De Carlo

The Frantoio De Carlo is a family-run agricultural enterprise with a centuries-old tradition.

Since 1980, this historic Apulian oil mill has been in the capable and passionate hands of Saverio and Grazia De Carlo, joined in recent years by their two children, Marina and Francesco.

The De Carlo oil mill upholds a company policy based on the advantages of the short supply chain and 'zero impact' ecological production. Environmental protection, innovation and tradition are the strengths of the De Carlo family.

While still operating in the tradition of Apulian peasant oil production, the company is constantly renewing itself: in fact, it has technologically advanced extraction plants.

De Carlo oils and products are the result of centuries of experience and scrupulous attention to the quality of the oil extraction process.

For example, in Apulia it is said that to make a good oil you have to 'press in the day': the De Carlo company has improved on this by 'grinding the olives' within hours of their harvest.

The company strongly believes in the values of the short supply chain because it guarantees the high quality of the olive oil.

☝ We recommend you taste the De Carlo 'Tenuta Arcamone' DOP Terra di Bari oil from one of the family's historic poderi with organic cultivation: an EVO oil with an intense and balanced flavour, slightly bitter with a spicy, decisive and persistent taste, unique characteristics that have made it a very popular and prestigious product.

Antico Frantoio Galantino

Frantoio Galantino started producing extra virgin olive oil in 1926. Galantino produces a high quality EVO oil, obtained by cold extraction from the best olives that are harvested north of Bari. The olives are pressed in traditional granite mills.

Frantoio Galantino cultivates the olive groves from which the excellent extra virgin olive oil is made and also deals directly with its bottling.

☝ We recommend you try Galantino's Apulian Medium Fruity oil, an ideal oil for everyday use, whether consumed raw or used for cooking. In the 5l tin format of Medium Fruity, it has a truly unbeatable quality/price ratio!

The main Apulian olive varieties in Galantino oil are Coratina and Ogliarola Barese, but they also include Leccino and Peranzana olives. The latter are used to produce a wide range of products, including citrus and spicy oils.

Galantino oil is sold all over the world in the best olive oil tasting boutiques. It is also widely used in high quality catering.

Le Tre Colonne

The Le Tre Colonne farm has been producing extra virgin olive oil for more than three generations.

The company, owned by the Stallone family, is founded on three values, as solid as columns. These three values are:

  • Tradition
  • Taste
  • Genuineness

The company is located in Giovinazzo, in the province of Bari, on the Apulian coast. It has around 25 hectares of olive groves with a total of almost seven thousand trees. It has a state-of-the-art oil mill. The latter, together with a careful and rigorous selection of the olives and a meticulous control of the entire production chain, from harvesting to pressing to bottling the olive oil, allows them to obtain a very high quality extra virgin olive oil.

A quality confirmed by the numerous recognitions and awards obtained by the Le Tre Colonne company in recent years, both nationally and internationally.

☝ We recommend Le Tre Colonne 'Evolution Denocciolato' oil, a finalist in the 'Il Magnifico 2022' competition. This extra virgin is a denocciolato (the olive pulp is separated from the stone before pressing) that is certainly satisfying to the palate. Fresh, enveloping and intense, it has hints of fennel, pepper and hay. The taste is tangy with a long persistence of vegetable tones. Try it with soups, mature cheeses or salads.

Sabino Leone

Azienda Agricola Sabino Leone is an up-to-date Apulian farm, run by owner Sabino together with his sons. One of its main objectives is the valorisation of the indigenous Apulian cultivars through new olive groves.

The company is dedicated to the care of olive groves of the Coratina olive, where there are olive trees over 220 years old, as well as the Peranzana, Carolea and Frantoio cultivars.

☝ We recommend the excellent intense fruity extra virgin olive oil Don Gioacchino Grand Cru DOP Terra di Bari, produced from olives from the centuries-old coratina olive grove with its 220-year-old trees. Rich in antioxidants, the flavour of this extra virgin olive oil from Puglia is very complex and harmonious.

Intini

Intini Olive Oil Extra Virgin is produced in Alberobello, Apulia.

The Intini olive oil mill has recently added two continuous processing lines to a traditional pressing system. This allows the production of extra virgin olive oil in the absence of oxygen thanks to the inertisation of nitrogen throughout the production process.

The olive pressing system is also very innovative and allows extra virgin oil to be obtained from a paste of pitted olives. The result is an extra virgin olive oil with a more delicate taste, in which bitterness and spiciness, typical characteristics of good quality extra virgin oil, are less noticeable.

☝ Intini's organic extra virgin olive oil was the winner of this year's 'Olio Capitale' as the best medium fruity oil and Best Bio of the competition. It is made from olives that come exclusively from organic farming. The protagonist is the Coratina cultivar, queen of the Apulian territory, harvested strictly by hand in November. The result is an oil with a medium-intense fruitiness, which has distinct vegetal hints and is decisive and persistent, ideal for medium to full-bodied dishes.

Ciccolella

Azienda Agricola Ciccolella has around eight thousand olive trees of the Coratina and Ogliarola Barese varieties. Azienda Ciccolella's olive groves are located near the towns of Molfetta, Giovinazzo and Terlizzi north of Bari, in the heart of Apulian olive production country.

☝ We recommend Faresse Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the practical and innovative 5-litre Bag in Box version. A delicate monovarietal EVO oil obtained only from Ogliarola Barese olives, it is ideal for cooking and seasoning red sauces and fish. It is characterised by its pleasant taste and fragrances reminiscent of almond and yellow apple.

Mimì olive oil

In the Mimì olive oil there is the character of the Apulian olive but above all the hand of the miller Donato Conserva, who in his "clinic of oil ", has been able to create excellent extra virgin products suitable for any palate, from the finest to the most inexperienced.

☝We suggest you try the Ogliarola extra virgin olive oil , cultivar very delicate and sensitive. Its pulp is clear and the resulting oil has shades of gold. The fruity is of light intensity with hints of lettuce and cut grass; lends itself to being used together with friselle, bread, bruschetta, soups, vegetables and for the preparation of ice cream

Agrolio

The production of Agrolio extra virgin olive oil began in the 1930s when Vincenzo Agresti, an agricultural entrepreneur from Andria, started its production using olives of the Coratina variety and inaugurated a unique mill with a controlled production chain up to the bottling of the oil.

☝ Try La vecchia Macina olive oil in a 5-litre tin: a top quality extra virgin olive oil from Puglia, with a very affordable price and a very high-quality standard.

Is Apulian oil the best Italian olive oil?

In Italy, excellent extra virgin olive oil is produced. Eighty per cent of the total Italian oil production comes from southern Italian regions, where the olive tree finds its natural habitat.

To indicate which is the best Italian extra virgin olive oil, we have to consider at least two factors:

  • Acidity: The lower the acidity of the oil, the better it tastes. Of course, not everyone likes an olive oil that tickles the throat, but you should know that this is an indicator of the quality of a good extra virgin olive oil
  • the variety of olive, because some olives have better organoleptic and nutritional properties than others

The Puglian extra virgin olive oil produced from the Coratina olive is considered by experts to be a product of oil excellence for its balanced flavour and extraordinary organoleptic characteristics

This extra virgin oil from Puglia is certainly one of the best extra virgin olive oils in Italy.

☝ If you want to taste an excellent oil produced from the Coratina olive, we recommend Muraglia Essenza Intenso fruity oil and Coratina oil by Intini.These oils produced from the Coratina olive have a strong flavour, with bitter and spicy notes, balanced but intense. They are the ideal condiment for bread and legume soups, red meat, grilled fish and vegetables such as cabbage and turnips.

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