Unfiltered oil in transparent bottles: Why?
The family produces only EVOO, almost all of which it sells unfiltered, “because it has a stronger flavor, an interesting look and is something different,” Núñez de Prado says. “In Japan, for instance, people understand this and like their olive oil unfiltered.
“And we use transparent bottles because we want people to see the color of our oil, so they can recognise its quality. It’s the opposite of olive oil tastings, where the oil is in blue glass so the tasters aren’t influenced by nice colors.
“Using opaque or colored glass allows some producers to mix oils and mislead customers, who can’t see the color of what they are buying. The light in supermarkets is usually cold, so it’s not a problem, and our customers generally know to keep their oil away from light, and we also say it on the label.”
Of the annual EVOO production of 1 million liters almost all is pre-sold and about 85 percent is exported, mainly to Asia and within Europe.
“Japan takes 40 percent of our exports and we send 20-25 percent to the U.S. Our other main markets are France, Germany, the U.K., Belgium, Korea and China. Our clients are a mix of restaurateurs and household users.”
The brothers frequently travel overseas to promote their EVOOs. Felipe, who himself makes 8-9 trips a year, says it can be gruelling but is essential to spread understanding about the quality of the oil.
Núñez de Prado becomes a little quiet when asked about his brother Andrés, an agricultural engineer who drove the plant’s modernization but died in 1998 at just 54. Rosenblum’s book says, “If there is a high priest of olives…it is Andrés Núñez de Prado.” Brothers Francisco, Antonio and Felipe, however, are carrying the mantle with equal dedication.
“Andrés was ahead of his time in lots of ways. For instance he was seen as crazy because he started harvesting in November but now the majority of growers start in November,” says Felipe Núñez de Prado proudly.
“He also had an agrochemical business so he knew about the increased use of pesticides and that they left a residue in olive oil. Back in 1986 he realized that the traditional method wasn’t working, you had to use too many chemicals, so we started organic production then and got certification in 1990 when it became available.”
Flies and fungus
The family has two main challenges on the organic front: fungus and the olive fruit fly.
“ For the fungus we put copper sulfate on the leaves and to reduce the flies we use plastic bottles with a sex pheromone to attract and trap the males. We put out the bottles in September and October and use about 3000-4000 of them,” Núñez de Prado explains.
Although there is aerial pesticide spraying in the region he doesn’t worry about contamination. “We are advised when they will be doing it and put up flags to mark our property, and the pilots know the areas to avoid.”
Not only is Felipe passionate about making olive oil, he needs little excuse to splash it about. After a tasting session at the mill, he sloshed a healthy dose on his bread and poured (more than drizzled) more on some of the tapas being served, including the Manchego cheese and Iberian ham, before going on to explain why the tempura (which Andalusia claims to have introduced to Japan) and fried almonds had great flavor but weren’t greasy – they were cooked in olive oil. The ham and partridge croquettes and scrambled eggs at the following lunch, both fried in olive oil, were a particular hit. And dessert naturally continued the theme, with honey and olive oil drizzled over an orange, accompanied by an EVOO ice cream.
Esteemed by connoisseurs and garlanded with prizes both in and beyond Spain, the Núñez de Prado EVOOs are liquid testimony to the philosophy of the family behind them: respect for nature, and use of both the best artisanal methods and the most innovative modern technology.