CARM Celebrates Regional Taste with High-End Olive Oils and Wines

In northern Portugal, Casa Agricola Roboredo Madeira (CARM) pioneers organic farming to craft award-winning products.

CARM
By Paolo DeAndreis
Feb. 10, 2023 15:25 UTC
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CARM

The Trás-os-Montes region in north­ern Portugal, with its val­leys and hills embraced by the Douro river, is home to some of Portugal’s most cel­e­brated wines and extra vir­gin olive oils.

Today. But in the 1990s, reach­ing for high qual­ity was not an obvi­ous process in this coun­try,” Filipe Madeira, owner of the Casa Agricola Roboredo Madeira (CARM), told Olive Oil Times.

We did not fol­low the path that most have cho­sen. We actu­ally started with olive oil pro­duc­tion and years after we trans­ferred our expe­ri­ence to wine­mak­ing,” Madeira noted.

Today, many of CARM’s olive oils are con­sid­ered some of the best in the world, as demon­strated by their long streak of Gold Awards at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

See Also:Portuguese Producers Reap Benefits of Record Harvest at World Competition

Also, Portugal is now one of the most cru­cial olive oil pro­duc­ers world­wide. More and more of its local pro­duc­ers win the atten­tion of selec­tive and sophis­ti­cated con­sumers.

Still, things were very dif­fer­ent when CARM’s adven­ture began in the 1990s. Constant con­tact with the family’s many Italian friends and olive oil con­nois­seurs allowed CARM to pio­neer qual­ity pro­duc­tion.

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I remem­ber bring­ing regional wines and olive oils to our friends in Italy in the 1990s. They did not like those olive oils, as they were not pro­duced with a focus on qual­ity, which was cru­cial to Italian olive oil cul­ture,” Madeira recalled.

The Portuguese raw prod­uct had high poten­tial, but olives under­went ugly trans­for­ma­tion processes,” he added.

Something that I always say to those who did not yet explore olive oil qual­ity is com­par­ing it to orange juice, as it is essen­tially a fruit juice as well. If I squeeze a ripe orange, I can get some good juice, but what hap­pens if I choose oranges too long for­got­ten or even rot­ten? I still can get their juice, but how will it taste?” Madeira added.

Olive oil pro­duc­tion in Portugal

Portugal is one of the largest pro­duc­ers of olive oil in the world, with a long his­tory of olive cul­ti­va­tion and oil pro­duc­tion. The coun­try has a diverse range of olive vari­eties, includ­ing the indige­nous Madural, Cobrancosa, Verdeal and Galega. and the indus­try cov­ers both tra­di­tional and mod­ern pro­duc­tion meth­ods. Olive oil is typ­i­cally pro­duced in the south­ern and cen­tral regions of the coun­try, where the cli­mate is most favor­able. The indus­try plays a sig­nif­i­cant role in the coun­try’s agri­cul­ture sec­tor and econ­omy, and is an impor­tant part of the coun­try’s cul­tural her­itage and cui­sine.

That was the begin­ning of the family’s jour­ney explor­ing Italian extra vir­gin olive oils, their meth­ods of pro­duc­tion, and the tech­nolo­gies and pro­to­cols applied by the most crit­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als in the Italian olive sec­tor.

We real­ized that we could greatly improve the qual­ity of our prod­ucts and worked to apply that know-how and pro­cess­ing tech­nolo­gies while also focus­ing on the unique con­tri­bu­tion to our qual­ity com­ing from our ter­ri­tory,” Madeira said, high­light­ing the efforts of the com­pany to focus on local olive tree cul­ti­vars and the local ter­roir for both its olive oils and wines.

That was not an easy process. It could have been a night­mare, as at one point, we had the olive oil mill ready but not a tech­ni­cian able to oper­ate it,” Madeira noted.

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I still remem­ber being down there in front of those machines, with a tra­di­tional phone with its cord in one hand, and with the other, I was click­ing on the but­tons our part­ners in Italy were telling me to click on. It was a mess; there was olive oil every­where,” he added.

Thanks to that expe­ri­ence, Madeira defined an excel­lent pro­to­col and then applied it. Finally, the olive oils com­ing out of the new advanced mill were pre­sented at impor­tant local olive oil con­tests. We won every­thing, the first, the sec­ond, the third, the fourth and the fifth prizes,” Madeira said, high­light­ing the pio­neer­ing work of his com­pany.

Still, local per­cep­tion of those first qual­ity EVOOs was not expected. We asked local opin­ion lead­ers and friends to taste our olive oils, and they did not like it. That hap­pened because they were not used to qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils, to its fruity and piquant notes. It was the first good EVOOs they were tast­ing,” Madeira recalled.

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CARM

However, the local food and cui­sine cul­ture did not take too long to catch up and embrace the new fla­vors. When they started read­ing how appre­ci­ated our EVOOs were abroad, peo­ple over here got curi­ous,” CARM’s owner said.

The truth is that Portugal today has some very high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils. At the time, we were the only ones. Over time so much has been devel­oped, and the olive oil mar­ket picked up pace,” Madeira under­lined.

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CARM is located in Almendra, in the heart of a val­ley dot­ted by vil­lages and small cities. The munic­i­pal­ity is char­ac­ter­ized by an arid cli­mate and aver­age yearly pre­cip­i­ta­tions that do not reach 150 mil­lime­ters.

Our val­ley is the area where it rains the less in the whole Iberian Peninsula. Such con­di­tions, of course, do impact on our trees, whose age spans from 80 years to a full mil­len­nium. They are all rain­fed, tra­di­tional orchards,” Madeira noted.

In our best sea­son ever, we worked approx­i­mately one mil­lion kilo­grams of olives in our olive oil mill. This sea­son we are down by 90 per­cent,” Madeira noted, high­light­ing the impact of the Mediterranean drought, which has hit Portugal, Spain, Italy and other olive oil-pro­duc­ing coun­tries.

See Also:Europe Confronts Worst Drought in 500 Years, Officials Say

CARM’s olive oil pro­duc­tion is entirely organic, and its vol­ume is lim­ited. This pro­duc­tion drop occurs because its 59 thou­sand olive trees are rarely full of olives.

If we man­age to har­vest 12 kilo­grams of olives per olive tree is a suc­cess, even from the the largest among our trees,” Madeira noted.

In the cur­rent sea­son, the com­pany has pro­duced 22 thou­sand liters of its best oils, which, CARM explained, will allow it to sus­tain its exports to the U.S., Japan and Switzerland.

The biggest chal­lenge on the local mar­ket for high-qual­ity pro­duc­ers is that the major­ity of peo­ple does not yet look for such qual­ity. That also affects the prices of EVOOs sold locally,” Madeira noted.

The olive oil yield of the rain­fed orchards’ fruits also tends to be mod­er­ate, rang­ing from 7 to 14 per­cent. In other areas of the coun­try and dif­fer­ent kinds of olive cul­ti­va­tion, the yield per olive drupe often fares far above such lev­els.

Acidity lev­els, though, are sig­nif­i­cantly low. We very rarely exceed 0.1 per­cent,” noted Madeira. An opti­mal result that is rare, even among top-class prod­ucts.

The com­pany focuses on olive cul­ti­vars typ­i­cally asso­ci­ated with the region, such as Madural and Negrinha de Freixo, mainly used for table olives. Still, if it is har­vested early, it donates spe­cial fla­vors to olive oil, such as a touch of banana,” Madeira spec­i­fied.

On top of those cul­ti­vars, the com­pany includes com­mon Portuguese vari­eties, such as Cobrançosa and Galega.

Selecting fla­vors and olive oil charac­ter­is­tics is cru­cial to cre­at­ing the company’s EVOO blend. During the har­vest, which lasts just about a month and a half, I am there every day to assess qual­ity and select in which tank to store our extra vir­gin olive oil. Afterwards, we trans­fer in larger silos a pre-fil­tered prod­uct, which gets fully ana­lyzed.”

In the fol­low­ing weeks, blends are defined and com­posed with the help of tast­ing experts and then mostly sent abroad.

The future, though, might bring an increase in pro­duc­tion vol­umes to CARM. We are also exper­i­ment­ing with a semi-inten­sive 20-hectare olive orchard, we are explor­ing it, but we are see­ing that local vari­eties do not eas­ily adapt to that kind of olive grow­ing,” Madeira com­mented.



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