Brač Seeks Croatia’s Sixth PDO Certification

Olive oil has played an integral role in the cultural, ecological and economic development of the Dalmatian island.
Photo: Tija Mlinac
By Paolo DeAndreis
Aug. 10, 2021 11:26 UTC

One Croatian island known through­out his­tory for being a source of excel­lent olive oil will soon see its olive oil rec­og­nized with a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the European Union.

The renowned extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced on the island of Brač is mainly extracted from the Oblica vari­ety. It will be the sixth PDO for which Croatian pro­duc­ers have applied, adding to Cres, Istria, Korcula, Krk and Solta.

A fam­ily table with­out olive oil is unthink­able on the island of Brač.- Tija Mlinac, gen­eral man­ager, Poljoprivredna Zadruga coop­er­a­tive

Located off the Croatian coast­line between Split and Makarska in the heart of Dalmatia, Brač is the third largest island in the Adriatic Sea and boasts breath­tak­ing shores and rolling hills.

On Brač, where tourism thrives, qual­ity olive oil pro­duc­tion has long been part of the local iden­tity. Olive trees have grown on the island for mil­len­nia. Even the Roman nat­u­ral­ist Pliny the Elder cred­ited the island as a source of excel­lent olive oil.

The olive has always been the most impor­tant agri­cul­tural crop on the island of Brač,” Tija Mlinac, an agron­o­mist and the gen­eral man­ager of the Poljoprivredna Zadruga coop­er­a­tive in Supetar, one of the main island’s towns, told Olive Oil Times.

The first writ­ten traces of olive cul­ti­va­tion can be found in the records of the Greko-Roman travel writer Strabo from the first cen­tury B.C., and the edict of Emperor Diocletian from the third cen­tury A.D., in which olive cul­ti­va­tion is men­tioned as sig­nif­i­cant,” she added.

The PZ Supetar coop­er­a­tive is the lead­ing pro­moter of the extra vir­gin olive oils from the island receiv­ing PDO cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. According to the PDO spec­i­fi­ca­tions, Brač olive oil is pro­duced with at least 80 per­cent autochtho­nous Oblica olives, all of which must come from reg­is­tered groves on the island.


Photo: Tija Mlinac

The peo­ple of Brač adapted their envi­ron­ment to the needs of olive grow­ing and chose Oblica as the most suit­able vari­ety which became dom­i­nant on this island,” Mlinac said. It is fully adapted to demand­ing geo-cli­matic con­di­tions which defined the rec­og­niz­abil­ity and qual­ity of Brač olive oil.”

This qual­ity has been main­tained thanks to the con­tin­u­ous pro­duc­tion and con­stant improve­ment of agro-tech­ni­cal pro­ce­dures and the tech­nol­ogy used to process olives into oil,” she added.

Brač extra vir­gin olive oil is char­ac­ter­ized by its low con­tent of free fatty acids and low per­ox­ide val­ues. The oil boasts a bal­anced aroma of fresh olive fruit, leaves and grass, with a high level of polyphe­nols.

The total con­tent of phe­no­lic com­pounds in Brač olive oil is higher than 300 mil­ligrams per kilo­gram of oil,” Mlinac said.

She also empha­sized how olive grow­ing means much more to the res­i­dents of Brač than just its eco­nomic value. It affects their tra­di­tions, spir­i­tual life and how they pro­tect their land­scape.


Olive mill remains at museum in Škrip. Photo: Tija Mlinac

The advance­ment and devel­op­ment of olive grow­ing on Brač in the 16th cen­tury were encour­aged by the Venetian admin­is­tra­tion, which sug­gested to the Duke of Brač that olive trees must be planted on uncul­ti­vated areas, thus increas­ing olive oil pro­duc­tion,” she said.

According to his­tor­i­cal doc­u­ments cited by the coop­er­a­tive, the con­tin­u­ous expan­sion of olive orchards meant that half a mil­lion olive trees pro­duced about 800 wag­ons of olive oil” by the end of the 18th cen­tury. At the time, the island was pro­duc­ing more olive oil than the rest of Dalmatia.

However, in the sec­ond half of the 19th cen­tury, local farm­ers began expand­ing their vine­yards and started grow­ing fewer olive trees. Still, Brač remained one of the most rel­e­vant olive oil exporters among Dalmatia’s islands, with pro­duc­tion above 1.4 mil­lion liters each year.

The great devel­op­ment of olive grow­ing on the island resulted in the found­ing of the First Dalmatian Oil Cooperative in 1899 in Povlja, and then the Oil Cooperative in Pučišća in 1909,” Mlinac said.


Interior of the Olive Oil Museum in Škrip. Photo: Tija Mlinac

According to the PZ Supetar coop­er­a­tive, the island’s olive orchards now spread over more than 1,883 hectares, which roughly means they cover one-third of all crops in Brač.

The island also boasts eight mod­ern pro­cess­ing plants located in the major towns. In addi­tion, some farm­ers run mills and usu­ally sell their prod­ucts through word of mouth and among acquain­tances.


The coop­er­a­tive esti­mates that the island’s olive oil pro­duc­tion, which is sub­ject to the alter­nate bear­ing sea­sons, reaches between 800 and 1,000 tons per year.

Only a small num­ber of pro­duc­ers brand their olive oils and sell them through retail chains or in larger quan­ti­ties out­side the island,” Mlinac said. A large num­ber of small pro­duc­ers are engaged in olive grow­ing as a sup­ple­men­tary occu­pa­tion, and only a small num­ber live exclu­sively from the sale of olive oil.”

Due to the spe­cific ter­rain with lit­tle arable land, olive grow­ing is done by tra­di­tional meth­ods with­out the help of machines,” she added. Pruning is done by hand as well as har­vest­ing, which ensures a spe­cial qual­ity of olives.”

According to Mlinac, the unique cli­matic con­di­tions mean that local farm­ers usu­ally har­vest their olives between the end of September and the first weeks of October, when olive fruits are just streaked with a darker color and are of firm con­sis­tency, and they well tol­er­ate trans­port to the oil mill.”


Photo: Tija Mlinac

Such an early har­vest reduces the olive oil yields but ensures the high qual­ity of Brač olive oil,” she added.

After the olives are har­vested, they are care­fully trans­ported to the mills and processed, ensur­ing that the tem­per­a­ture never exceeds 27 ºC, which Mlinac said con­tributes to the spe­cific chem­i­cal and sen­sory prop­er­ties of Brač olive oil.

Research has shown that this approach to olive oil pro­duc­tion ensures the specifics of Brač olive oil such as low val­ues of free fatty acids and per­ox­ide num­ber, high val­ues of total phe­no­lic com­pounds, bal­anced bit­ter­ness and spici­ness and pro­nounced fruiti­ness,” she said.

Along with their ded­i­ca­tion to pro­duc­tion, the res­i­dents of Brač are also enthu­si­as­tic olive oil con­sumers, accord­ing to Mlinac. The peo­ple of Brač fre­quently eat green and ripe olives as a side dish, in addi­tion to using olive oil in a vari­ety of local spe­cial­ties, from sal­ads to fish.

A fam­ily table with­out olive oil is unthink­able on the island of Brač,” Mlinac said. At least 2,000 years of the pres­ence of olives and oil pro­cess­ing on Brač has left a deep mark on today’s olive grow­ing and the qual­ity of its olive oil, which enjoys a great rep­u­ta­tion in the mod­ern mar­ket.”


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