` Casas de Hualdo: The Most Beautiful Olive Grove in the World - Olive Oil Times

Casas de Hualdo: The Most Beautiful Olive Grove in the World

Jan. 16, 2013
Olivarama

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Close to El Carpio de Tajo, half-way between Toledo and Talavera de la Reina, lies the Casas de Hualdo mill, dis­tin­guished with the award for the best of all those oper­at­ing in Spain. This hap­pened in May 2012 and just a few months later, its land­scape was also clas­si­fied as the most beau­ti­ful in the oil world. These awards have added to the list of achieve­ments the qual­ity of its extra vir­gins has been build­ing on since the begin­ning. Extra vir­gins made of olives pro­duced on the fam­ily estate. There are no secrets behind this suc­cess. It sim­ply reflects a pas­sion for a job well done that rec­on­ciles the con­cepts of qual­ity and quan­tity.

The last hydro­log­i­cal year in Spain has been clas­si­fied as one of the dri­est in recent his­tory. Nonetheless, the arrival of autumn appears to have brought a respite, gen­er­ously dish­ing out buck­ets of rain. And the land, with its thirst finally quenched has re-blos­somed in a sec­ond, exul­tant spring as if in a des­per­ate attempt to make up for lost time before the harsh win­ter months bear down on it.

And so, it was with all of its splen­dour restored that the groves of Casas de Hualdo received us at the begin­ning of November. An estate in Toledo with an end­less view of rolling hori­zons from the foothills of the Montes de Toledo to the fer­tile low­lands of the river Tajo.

In this priv­i­leged nat­ural set­ting, both big and small game hides eas­ily, cam­ou­flaged among the lush, almost vir­gin, veg­e­ta­tion among which the Mediterranean under­growth merges with the cen­te­nary mead­ows abun­dant with sea­sonal crops as diverse as alfalfa, pis­ta­chio, peas, wheat, corn or pop­pies.

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Among all these plan­ta­tions, far removed from the chro­matic vari­a­tions so typ­i­cal of this time of year, the olive trees spread over var­i­ous sites, defin­ing the hori­zon with the char­ac­ter­is­tic green of their foliage which at the same time con­trasts with the exten­sive colour palette pro­vided by all the myr­iad mate­ri­als that make up the land.

These trees, pre­cisely ordered in rows and sep­a­rated from each other by var­i­ous plan­ta­tion frames, receive water from a sophis­ti­cated water­ing sys­tem con­trolled from the build­ings that over­see the daily activ­ity of Casas de Hualdo. Along with these, also inte­grated into the set­ting, a com­plete and func­tional mill was built just a few years ago, trans­form­ing the estate into an authen­tic ter­roir”.

Observed from any of the hills sur­round­ing the mill, it looks like the illus­tra­tion of a very lovely pic­ture post­card. This is how it seemed to us and must also be how the jury of the inter­na­tional reward Extrascape saw it too, as on its first edi­tion, it granted its high­est dis­tinc­tion to the awe-inspir­ing beauty of this unique set­ting, as well as the unri­valled qual­ity of the extra vir­gins pro­duced here.

Casas de Hualdo in fig­ures

The immense estate extends over a sur­face area of 3200 hectares, of which, over 600 are ded­i­cated to the cul­ti­va­tion of around 300,000 olive trees. Located at an alti­tude of around 500 metres, these are dis­trib­uted between 4 highly char­ac­ter­is­tic vari­etals: Picual, Arbequina, Cornicabra and Manzanilla Cacereña. The fruit obtained from them is milled at an aver­age tem­per­a­ture of 23 ºC in a mill built in 2009.

Quality and quan­tity are not incom­pat­i­ble

Our visit to Casas de Hualdo coin­cided with the frenzy that always sur­rounds the olive har­vest period. Immersed in the hub­bub of this excit­ing scene, we saw how the har­vest meth­ods used here not only pre­vent dam­age from being inflicted on the fruit, but also guar­an­tee rapid trans­porta­tion to the mill to avoid any other type of dete­ri­o­ra­tion.

Thanks to these prac­tices, the ulti­mate aim is to endow the oil with max­i­mum excel­lence. An objec­tive which, judg­ing by its long list of awards and its recent inter­na­tional ISO 22.000 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, the com­pany has suc­cess­fully achieved, thus destroy­ing the idea that there is an inversely pro­por­tional rela­tion­ship between qual­ity pro­duc­tion and large quan­tity pro­duc­tion.

To achieve this, the estate not only relies on the expe­ri­ence and efforts of its employ­ees who make this ini­tia­tive pos­si­ble, but also the incal­cu­la­ble col­lab­o­ra­tion of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, to which it grants its instal­la­tions and lands for all sorts of tri­als and stud­ies relat­ing to the olive tree cul­ti­va­tion. Along these lines, at present they are study­ing the dif­fer­ences between oil pro­duc­tion accord­ing to the var­i­ous sun­shine lev­els the plants receive, the water­ing sys­tems and the geo­graphic ori­en­ta­tion of the hedgerow olive grove sys­tem. Thus, Casas de Hualdo can claim to hav­ing a lab­o­ra­tory of its very own, which will undoubt­edly ben­e­fit it as the researchers progress.

Technology and the envi­ron­ment

Casas de Hualdo is an incred­i­bly large estate. So much so, in fact, that it shel­ters ver­dant flora and autochtho­nous fauna that share the space with all sorts of crops. Cohabitation is, in all cases, har­mo­nious and bal­anced, which is some­thing the com­pany has always worked towards.

In the spe­cific case of the olive grove, envi­ron­men­tal respect mate­ri­al­izes in the shape of a series of mea­sures under­taken, that range from allow­ing grass to grow among the trees to pro­tect the soil from ero­sion: decant­ing of the veg­e­ta­tion water gen­er­ated in the olive oil extrac­tion process and use of solid residues as fer­tilis­ers; or the use of the pomace oil obtained in the milling as a fuel to heat and pro­vide hot water to the entire com­plex.

Many of these prac­tices would be unfea­si­ble with­out the inter­ven­tion of the most cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy. The same tech­nol­ogy that allows for the impres­sive mill to func­tion which, inau­gu­rated in November 2009, boasts the most mod­ern machin­ery by Pieralisi on the inside. In a space as over­whelm­ingly diaphanous as it is immac­u­late, what par­tic­u­larly catches the eye is the pres­ence of the knead­ing group, Molinova Tg, this time made up of six inde­pen­dent mod­ules allow­ing max­i­mum qual­ity even while work­ing with large olive mass quan­ti­ties.

For these and for other rea­sons, the Spanish Olive Tree Regions Association (AEMO in Spanish) decided to grant its first prize for the Best National Mill to Casas de Hualdo in the lat­est edi­tion of its annual com­pe­ti­tion.

Olivarama arti­cles also appear in Olivarama mag­a­zine and are not edited by Olive Oil Times.

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