Olive Oil Increasingly Popular Among Douro Wineries

Portugal’s region of Douro is known for its Port and still wines, but more winery groups are becoming interested in producing and selling regional olive oils too.

Quinta das Vargellas Olive Groves (Courtesy of The Fladgate Partnership)
Jul. 31, 2018
By Rosa Gonzalez-Lamas
Quinta das Vargellas Olive Groves (Courtesy of The Fladgate Partnership)

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Although vines and olive trees share a com­mon ground in Portugal’s Douro region, it was not long ago that winer­ies began to pay more atten­tion to olive oil pro­duc­tion, adding estate-labeled olive oils to their wine port­fo­lios.

This is the case at the Fladgate Part­ner­ship, with var­i­ous Port wine brands and lux­ury hotels. Quinta de Vargel­las is one of the Douro estates where grapes are grown for its Taylor’s Port wine.

After pro­duc­ing olive oil for its own con­sump­tion, in 2002 the com­pany decided to start sell­ing its Azeite Virgem Extra (EVOO) Quinta de Vargel­las.

Olive groves are cul­ti­vated in a sus­tain­able man­ner, with­out using chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers or pes­ti­cides. The trees are care­fully han­dled and pre­served to pro­duce excep­tional qual­ity olive oils and because they help sus­tain the vineyard’s bio­di­ver­sity,” said Ana Mar­garida Mor­gado, Fladgate’s pub­lic rela­tions Direc­tor.

Three thou­sand olive trees at Vargel­las occupy some ten hectares, approx­i­mately 8.5 per­cent of the estate’s land. Most trees are over fifty years old and many are cen­te­nary.

See more: The Best Olive Oils from Por­tu­gal

Douro is a fer­tile land where olive trees are an impor­tant crop. The region’s micro­cli­mate, with ele­vated tem­per­a­tures and low rain­fall, is par­tic­u­larly suit­able for olive pro­duc­tion. The mostly schist soils are respon­si­ble for the con­sis­tency, darker col­ors, and more intense oil fla­vors.

Madural, Verdeal, Cor­dovil and Galega are the main olive vari­eties planted in Douro, prob­a­bly Portugal’s region with the largest num­ber of cen­te­nary olive groves.

The staff who over­sees the vine­yards usu­ally takes care of olive trees, but oil pro­duc­tion is mostly out­sourced. In the case of Vargel­las, olives are taken to the mill of Casa Agri­cola Roboredo Madeira (CARM) in Douro Supe­rior. Other winer­ies send their olives to Miran­dela, home of the Casa de Santo Amaro.

Most oils are sold at the winer­ies’ vis­i­tors cen­ters. In the case of Vargel­las, they are also avail­able at Fladgate’s lux­ury hotels and other gourmet stores. Some bot­tles even go to export mar­kets, just as those of winer­ies Quinta do Vale Meão and Quinta do Crasto.

Douro Valley, Portugal

An essen­tial ingre­di­ent of regional cui­sine, chang­ing con­sumer habits that pay more atten­tion to healthy foods have con­tributed to mak­ing olive oil increas­ingly impor­tant in Por­tu­gal. A major trans­for­ma­tion has been that olive oil has replaced but­ter as a bread com­ple­ment in most Por­tuguese restau­rants.

The grow­ing demand for olive oil also derives from Portugal’s enhanced gas­tro­nomic rep­u­ta­tion and a tourism boom, par­tic­u­larly in Porto and Douro. Wine tourism offers a unique plat­form to make olive oil a more promi­nent prod­uct and an indis­pens­able ele­ment in restau­rants related to the wine busi­ness or located within vis­i­tors cen­ters, not to men­tion that olive groves are an added fea­ture of vine­yard vis­its.

The syn­ergy between wine and olive oil has also become evi­dent at events as Essên­cia do Vinho Porto, Portugal’s top annual wine event, where many Douro winer­ies show­case olive oils in their stands. There’s a devoted olive oil tast­ing area at Lisbon’s Encon­tro com Vin­hos e Encon­tro com Sabores and mas­ter classes in sen­sory assess­ment.

Olive oil will remain a com­ple­men­tary prod­uct at Fladgate as no new tree plant­i­ngs are planned. But other wine groups as Syming­ton, which already pro­duces olive oils under the Quinta do Ataíde and Quinta de Malve­dos brands, might be pay­ing more atten­tion to olive oil pro­duc­tion con­sid­er­ing that in 2016 they bought a prop­erty in Vilar­iça Val­ley with a large exten­sion of organ­i­cally-farmed olive trees.

Other estates bot­tling their olive oils are Quinta das Car­val­has, Quinta do Val­lado, Quinta de la Rosa, Quinta da Roêda, Quinta da Boav­ista, Quinta das Ter­cedeiras, Quinta do Pas­sadouro, Quinta do Noval, Quinta do Por­tal, Cadão, Quinta dos Murças, Quinta da Pacheca, Quinta da Nossa Sen­hora do Carmo, Quinta do Ven­tozelo, and Quinta de Por­rais.

Ger­ações de Xisto is one of the youngest Douro projects blend­ing wine and olive oil. It depicts the com­mit­ment of younger gen­er­a­tions to their Douro ori­gins and seeks to honor and high­light the region’s land­scape and her­itage. Its Chousas Nos­tras EVOO is born from cen­te­nary olive trees with very low yields, but high-qual­ity olives.

We want to cre­ate a future from our respect to the past, tra­di­tion and val­ues, by extract­ing new aro­mas from the very old trees, pre­serv­ing the rural her­itage, and cre­at­ing employ­ment,” affirmed Fed­erico Lobão, one of the project’s part­ners.

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