Chilean Producer Bets Big on Italian Varieties

Olivos Ruta del Sol takes advantage of Chile’s terroir to produce some of the country's best extra virgin olive oils.

Olivos Ruta del Sol produces 700,000 liters of extra virgin olive oil each year from five varieties. (Photos: Olivos Ruta del Sol)
By Costas Vasilopoulos
Nov. 29, 2023 20:37 UTC
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Olivos Ruta del Sol produces 700,000 liters of extra virgin olive oil each year from five varieties. (Photos: Olivos Ruta del Sol)

In 2006, Chile’s olive oil indus­try was still in its infancy. The coun­try yielded 3,000 tons of olive oil that year, while the exist­ing olive groves cov­ered around 5,000 hectares.

Seeing a faint glim­mer of grow­ing poten­tial in the country’s fledg­ling olive oil sec­tor, a group of entre­pre­neurs decided to ven­ture into olive oil pro­duc­tion. Olivos Ruta del Sol was born.

Apart from table olive plan­ta­tions, there was not much infor­ma­tion or com­pany expe­ri­ence in olive oil pro­duc­tion at the time,” Fernando Carrasco Spano, the com­pa­ny’s chief exec­u­tive, told Olive Oil Times.

The story of Olivos Ruta del Sol began with an enthu­si­as­tic group of entre­pre­neurs who wanted to par­tic­i­pate in Chile’s emerg­ing olive oil indus­try and decided to cre­ate a busi­ness project together,” he added. Fascinated by the product’s ben­e­fits, they defined the com­mon objec­tive to make top-rate extra vir­gin olive oil.”

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The company’s jour­ney toward pro­duc­ing award-win­ning olive oil began with the search for the ideal loca­tion.

After explor­ing almost 20 prop­er­ties across the coun­try, the found­ing part­ners of Olivos Ruta del Sol set­tled in Huerto La Marquesa de Leyda in the cen­tral Chilean region of Valparaíso.

They were cap­ti­vated by the emerg­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of the val­ley, took a bet on this essen­tially untapped area of Chile and planted the first 100 hectares of olive trees in 2006,” Spano said.

Two years later, the com­pany began plant­ing its sec­ond olive grove near El Cerrillo in the O’Higgins region, which finally became its prin­ci­pal base of oper­a­tions.

The area of El Cerrillo in Pumanque has a very marked Mediterranean cli­mate, with many hours of day­light,” Spano said. Gradually, the company’s pro­duc­tive and oper­at­ing cen­ter moved to this orchard, from where we sup­ply the grow­ing national and inter­na­tional mar­ket.”

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Fernando Carrasco Spano co-founded Olivos Ruta del Sol in 2006.

Olivos Ruta del Sol, also known as Deleyda from its range of olive oils, now grows 143,000 trees of Leccino, Frantoio, Coratina, Koroneiki and Arbequina olives on 205 hectares with the capac­ity to pro­duce 700,000 liters of extra vir­gin olive oil each year in its high-tech olive oil mill.

Although new to olive oil pro­duc­tion, the com­pa­ny’s founders knew from the out­set that qual­ity is one of the main fac­tors in turn­ing a small but ambi­tious olive oil pro­ducer into a suc­cess story.

Since the begin­ning, our strongest con­vic­tion has been to main­tain a coher­ent olive oil project, even if it means lower yields or higher pro­duc­tion costs,” Spano said. Quality is at the core of our con­vic­tion.”

The slen­der, sin­u­ous South American coun­try offers numer­ous advan­tages for grow­ing olive trees: the cen­tral val­ley, Chile’s most fer­tile land and home to most of the olive groves, boasts a tem­per­ate Mediterranean cli­mate and rocky, well-drained soil.

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Chile is the sec­ond-largest olive oil pro­ducer in the Americas, with 28,000 hectares of olive groves planted and an aver­age annual pro­duc­tion of 20,000 tons of olive oil.

In addi­tion, nat­ural bar­ri­ers pro­tect Chile from many of the scourges that have bedev­iled olive grow­ers in other pro­duc­ing coun­tries. One of them is the olive fruit fly, a pest that can under­mine the qual­ity of olive oil.

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Spano said Olivos Ruta del Sol was one of the first companies to plant olives in Valparaíso.

Our loca­tion in cen­tral Chile offers a strong bar­rier against olive pathogens because of the Andes,” Spano said.

The plant­ing and grow­ing of our Italian vari­eties is a good exam­ple of our belief in qual­ity and con­sis­tency in main­tain­ing it,” he proudly added. We bet on them even though their yield is much lower than other vari­eties. Few orchards in Chile have these vari­eties; for us, they are key.”

Olive cul­ti­vars

An olive cul­ti­var is a cul­ti­vated vari­ety of the olive tree (Olea europaea). There are over 1,000 dif­fer­ent olive cul­ti­vars, each with its own unique char­ac­ter­is­tics. Some of the most com­mon olive cul­ti­vars include:

Olive cul­ti­vars are typ­i­cally named after the region where they orig­i­nated. For exam­ple, the Arbequina cul­ti­var orig­i­nated in the Arbequina region of Spain.

Olive cul­ti­vars are impor­tant for the pro­duc­tion of olive oil and table olives. The type of olive cul­ti­var used can affect the fla­vor, aroma, and qual­ity of the olive oil or table olives.

Olive cul­ti­vars are also impor­tant for the olive tree’s resis­tance to pests and dis­eases. Some olive cul­ti­vars are more resis­tant to cer­tain pests and dis­eases than oth­ers. This is impor­tant for olive grow­ers, as it can help to pro­tect their trees from dam­age and loss of yield.

Deleyda has also man­aged to avoid any seri­ous reper­cus­sions from the pro­longed drought that has affected much of rural Chile for over a decade.

The drought has been a chal­lenge for the last five years here but didn’t affect our 2023 olive oil crop,“ Spano said. In any case, we con­tin­u­ously improve water use in our groves to cater for any short­ages.”

The company’s pro­duc­tion oper­a­tions are char­ac­ter­ized by a rec­i­p­ro­cal approach, rec­og­niz­ing the impor­tance of being located in such a favor­able area for the pro­duc­tion of olive oil.

It is essen­tial for us to impact the envi­ron­ment and our com­mu­nity pos­i­tively,” Spano said.

This is why we have been adding dif­fer­ent strate­gies to mit­i­gate our CO2 emis­sions and stay loyal to our com­mit­ment to envi­ron­men­tally friendly olive oil pro­duc­tion,” he added. One of them was installing a solar panel in Pumanque, which allows us to source our energy needs cleanly and respon­si­bly.”

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Along with following sustainable best practices, Spano attributed some of the company’s success to its modern mill.

Deleyda has also earned a Sustainable Olive Oil” seal from the pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion ChileOliva, which cer­ti­fies its com­pli­ance with the Clean Production Agreement envi­ron­men­tal strate­gies oper­at­ing in Chile.

Despite cli­mate change affect­ing har­vest times, the com­pany has adapted and con­tin­ues to pro­duce some of the country’s best olive oils.

Every year, the har­vest starts ear­lier than the year before,” Spano said. The 2023 crop went accord­ing to plan, with our oils boast­ing ele­vated aro­mas and great organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics thanks to the cool cli­mate and the slow mat­u­ra­tion of the olives.”

In this year’s NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, the Deleyda olive oil blends earned a Gold and a Silver Award, extend­ing the win­ning streak of Olivos Ruta del Sol at the NYIOOC to five con­sec­u­tive years.

To win in New York is extra­or­di­nary, espe­cially because our mar­kets are almost 100 per­cent over­seas,” Spano said. Reaching the top moti­vates us to work even harder every year to deliver our qual­ity prod­ucts.”

The company’s ded­i­ca­tion to qual­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity, cou­pled with the unique attrib­utes of the Chilean ter­roir, has made Olivos Ruta del Sol a force to be reck­oned with among pro­duc­ers based in South America’s Southern Cone.

The project grew in chal­lenges and ambi­tions, but always with the con­vic­tion that the only way to pro­duce excel­lent olive oil was to com­mit to qual­ity,” Spano said.

We have out­lined this vision for our com­pany, and we are very proud to have built a coher­ent olive project over time, thanks to metic­u­lous and hard work,” he added. We want to bring our extra­or­di­nary olive oil to more places in the United States and the rest of the world.”


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