“Where olives can´t grow, a great wine is impossible to make.” – proverb
When we first came to Cortes de Cima in 1988 and began to plant our vineyards, we planted 50 hectares of olive trees for producing Olive Oil. Like with grape growing, Alentejo is one of the most important olive producing areas in the Iberian peninsula. We chose the Portuguese variety, Cobrançosa, which had proven to be well suited to Alentejan conditions. As with our vineyards, our olivegroves are accredited under a sustainable program called ‘Integrated Protection’, which limits and regulates the use of chemicals.
In 2004, we bottled our first estate grown Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a Gold Medal winner at the largest international competition. For Hans, to be making oil again was a natural yearning, after working with Palm Oil for over 20 years in the Malaysian plantation industry.
Early Harvest for High Quality
Our Olives are harvested early in October and November, when the olives just start to change colour from green to black. This early harvesting of the fruit, 1 to 2 months earlier than usual, is essential in producing a high quality olive oil with it’s unique characteristics, i.e. a deep greenish yellow color, a green grassy aroma, and a fresh, lightly piquant flavour.
Polyphenol content is higher in oils pressed from less ripe fruit, and free fatty acids are extremely low at 0,2% FFA, much lower than the 0,8% guideline set by the Intl. Olive Oil Commission for definition of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
All these benefits are at a cost! Early harvested green olives yield much less olive oil – only a 10% extraction rate, compared to up to 18% if left hanging for further ripening!
Labor Intensive Harvest
Olive harvesting is a semi-mechanical process. The olive trees are shaken by hand-held vibrators, causing the olives to fall onto nets which have been mechanically rolled out under the olive trees.
Within a few hours after harvest, the olives are transported to the mill. It is essential that the oil is extracted the same day as being harvested, as oxidation starts to take place as soon as the olives have been harvested. However, early harvested less ripe olives, with a firm pericarp, do not bruise and oxidize as easily as riper fruit does during harvest and transport.
Cold extraction to preserve the fruit and nutrients
Our ExtraVirgin Olive Oil comes from the ‘first’ cold extraction, where the oil is not heated nor oxidized, preserving the oil’s fresh fruit flavor and it’s full nutritional benefits, with high levels of antioxidants, particularly Vitamin E and phenols. Unlike other extraction methods, no chemicals are added during the entire process.
The first step is the grinding the olives into a paste without heat build up. The oil is separated in a 2 phase decanter system. The vegetable water is recycled to make the paste more liquid, which means the oil has a larger quantity of polyphenols, and at the same time, reducing the environmental impact by minimizing water disposal problems. The olive juice which contains both water and oil is then separated in a hermetically sealed centrifuge, finally yielding the “liquid gold.”
Finally, our olive oil is estate bottled, and stored at the winery in a cool, dark room.