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Argentine Oils: From 'Plan B' Crop to Award Winners

In wine-soaked Argentina, EVOO is beginning to make its mark.

May. 8, 2017
By Kelsey Shanesy

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There’s a say­ing that’s touted in the wine-lov­ing regions of Argentina. If you don’t drink wine, then why did you come?” Increas­ingly, the local olive oil indus­try has been respond­ing with a new answer: For the EVOO!”

There’s been a con­certed effort in recent years to sup­port the pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion of extra-vir­gin olive oil in the region, rang­ing from a gov­ern­ment-spon­sored mar­ket­ing cam­paign with its ban­ner phrase Men­doza Oliva Bien” to The Olive Road, a newly minted tourist attrac­tion where vis­i­tors can expe­ri­ence guided tours and tast­ings.
See more: The Best Olive Oils from Argentina for 2017
These efforts have been pay­ing off on both a local and inter­na­tional level. For vis­i­tors, EVOO tast­ings and tourism make for a nice break from the oth­er­wise end­less con­sump­tion of Mal­bec. And the coun­try pro­duces some of world’s best olive oils: the brand Oli­vares La Recon­quista won a Best in Class Award at the New York Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion, and Trilo­gia won a Sil­ver Award.

In Men­doza, whose pop­u­la­tion is largely com­prised of Ital­ian and Span­ish descen­dants, olives and olive oil have long had a place. Olive trees were planted along­side the vine­yards in accor­dance with Mediter­ranean tra­di­tion. This dou­ble plant­ing also allowed local farm­ers to hedge their bets. If it was a bad year for grapes, there was always plan B: the olive crop.

But with EVOO com­ing into its own in the region, some for­mer vine­yards have turned their focus to olives entirely, as was the case with the Maguay com­pany. We worked with both crops until 1980,” explained Flo­ren­cia Giol, one of three broth­ers who run the Men­doza-based com­pany. Since then, Maguay has begun to pro­duce its own EVOO and offer their final prod­ucts to con­sumers and tourists.

María Lour­des Tou­jas, a food sci­en­tist, and con­sul­tant for olive oil com­pa­nies in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, also noted that even the vine­yards focused on high-end wines are ven­tur­ing into pre­mium olive oil pro­duc­tion to round out their regional offer­ings.

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It’s very impor­tant to sup­port the pri­mary pro­ducer,” Lour­des Tou­jas said. With­out them, it’s not pos­si­ble to obtain oils of this qual­ity and quan­tity. Sup­port­ing this stage of the pro­duc­tion chain is fun­da­men­tal to be com­pet­i­tive in inter­na­tional mar­kets.”

Today, Men­doza is home to approx­i­mately 16,500 planted hectares and 25 mills. The vari­eties used in Men­doza for EVOO pro­duc­tion are mainly Acauco, an Argen­tine olive, as well as Arbe­quina. Fran­toio, Coratina, Farga and Picual are also used, although to a lesser extent. Extra vir­gin olive oils cur­rently rep­re­sent 90 per­cent of total pro­duc­tion and enjoy a unique fla­vor pro­file thanks to the opti­mal grow­ing cli­mate.

As it con­tin­ues to strive toward the pro­duc­tion of pre­mium EVOO and catch the atten­tion of tourists, the olive oil indus­try and Men­doza Oliva Bien work to remind peo­ple of the health ben­e­fits of EVOO, a prod­uct already ingrained in the lives of its peo­ple. And for Men­do­ci­nos as well as tourists, buy­ing local brands is get­ting eas­ier by the day.


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