California Producers Celebrate Olio Nuovo

These producers say early-harvested and unfiltered Olio Nuovo accentuates olive oil’s best organoleptic and healthful qualities.
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By Thomas Sechehaye
Nov. 20, 2023 19:46 UTC

For pro­duc­ers up and down the Golden State, the start of California’s olive har­vest means the first batches of 2023 Olio Nuovo are already on sale.

Olio Nuovo, which means new oil’ in Italian, is a small-batch extra vir­gin olive oil, unfil­tered and typ­i­cally bot­tled shortly after milling.

Producers in California care­fully select the olives for the new oil, milling them before any­thing else. Olio Nuovo is bot­tled fresh out of the mill with­out fil­ter­ing,” Craig Hilliker, the lead sen­sory ana­lyst at Nick Sciabica & Sons, told Olive Oil Times. This means that the cloudi­ness left in the bot­tle is actu­ally olive par­tic­u­late.”

See Also:Filtered or Unfiltered Olive Oil? A Choice for Consumers

That increases the fla­vor inten­sity and phe­no­lic con­tent, which results in an olive oil that is more fla­vor­ful and arguably health­ier since there are more antiox­i­dants,” he said.

According to Hilliker, Olio Nuovo com­prises about five per­cent of the company’s olive oil pro­duc­tion, with the mas­ter miller select­ing the best olives from each vari­ety and milling sev­eral mono­va­ri­etals.

The first vari­ety Nick Sciabica & Sons har­vests each year for its Olio Nuovo is Sevilliano. A key indi­ca­tor in the fla­vor pro­file of an olive oil is the time of har­vest, and Sevilliano is the ear­li­est olive vari­ety to mature to our desired fla­vor pro­file,” Hilliker explained.

After Sevillano, the company’s next Olio Nuovo mono­va­ri­etals are Ascolano and Manzanilla.

Ascolano is my per­sonal favorite olive oil pro­duced in California,” Hiliker said. Manzanillo, on the other hand, is the most grassy and robust Olio Nuovo we pro­duce.”

Richard Meisler, the co-owner of San Miguel Olive Farm, has also begun pro­duc­ing Olio Nuovo from 200 of his 1,200 trees com­prised of Tuscan vari­eties, adding that he tags the trees that will be used for the Olio Nuovo before they are har­vested.

We bot­tle our Olio Nuovo one week after the milling, giv­ing the oil a chance to set­tle just a bit,” he told Olive Oil Times. There is sed­i­ment from the milling process, which we leave in the oil.”

The sed­i­ment gives us an oil rich in phe­nols but has a shorter shelf life,” Mesiler said. The oil is cloudy and green, and stays fresh and pun­gent when used by the date on our label.”

Typically, Olio Nuovo main­tains its extra vir­gin qual­ity for six months under ideal stor­age con­di­tions, while fil­tered oils should retain their qual­ity for up to two years.

Unlike Nick Sciabica & Sons, which focuses on mono­va­ri­etal Olio Nuovo, Meisler uses a blend of five vari­eties. The mix varies yearly depend­ing on how quickly the olives ripen in the grove.

See Also:NYIOOC Winner Awarded for Olio Nuovo in Dalmatia

For Giulio Zavolta, the co-owner of Olivaia’s OLA, Olio Nuovo cel­e­brates the har­vest. This year, he esti­mates that 25 per­cent of his pro­duc­tion will fall into the cat­e­gory, adding he had already sold it out.

This is the first oil of the year that all can enjoy, and it is likely one of the most height­ened sen­sory expe­ri­ences with respect to oil,” he said. For us, it recon­nects us to the very fields the olives have come from, and it is a won­der­ful reminder of the won­der­ful gift of our trees.”

We make it in lim­ited quan­tity as we pre­fer not to keep any in inven­tory because of its shorter shelf life,” Zavolta added. Those very fine par­ti­cles that may be pos­i­tively con­tribut­ing to the taste pro­file of the oil in a short period of time will likely oxi­dize and give off tast­ing notes.”


Due to its rar­ity, most pro­duc­ers say Olio Nuovo usu­ally costs more than extra vir­gin olive oil. The increased cost results from rush pro­cess­ing to make the olive oil avail­able as quickly as pos­si­ble,” Hilliker said.

However, this is not always the case for smaller pro­duc­ers. We typ­i­cally sell our Olio Nuovo at the same cost as our even­tual extra vir­gin olive oils,” Zavolta said. Having said that, I could see how, given the lim­ited quan­ti­ties and the excite­ment that comes with it, why it could be sold for more.”

Pricing at San Miguel Olive Farm reflects the time-con­sum­ing meth­ods. Our pric­ing is much more due to lim­ited pro­duc­tion,” Meisler said. The time for me to select the trees to har­vest is time-con­sum­ing. Time is money. The method of milling we request, cre­at­ing the loss of maybe 15 to 20 per­cent of our oil, is reflected in our pric­ing.”

Regardless of the price, Hilliker and other pro­duc­ers said there is a con­sumer base for Olio Nuovo, with some olive oil enthu­si­asts actively seek­ing it out and other curi­ous cus­tomers seek­ing to become acquainted.

We have one type [of cus­tomer] that seeks it out because they under­stand that in olive oil, fresh­ness equals qual­ity,” Hilliker said. The sec­ond type of con­sumer sam­ples it in our gift shop against the pre­vi­ous har­vest and estab­lishes a pref­er­ence.”

Some pre­fer the more intense, fresher tast­ing Olio Nuovo, and some con­tinue pur­chas­ing our pre­vi­ous har­vest because they enjoy the more del­i­cate fla­vor,” he added.

Zavolta’s expe­ri­ence is sim­i­lar. He said con­sumers may not be aware of the dif­fer­ences ini­tially, but when they taste Olio Nuovo, they want to know more.

We like to think of it as a sea­sonal del­i­cacy that is to be con­sumed with the sea­son and with it the spe­cial sea­sonal dishes marked by its use,” Zavolta said. We have worked hard to con­vey this sense of sea­son tied to har­vest, and con­sumers do seem to respond to this.”


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