`Prizewinning Cooperative Credits Biodiversity, Early Harvesting for its Fruity Arbequina - Olive Oil Times

Prizewinning Cooperative Credits Biodiversity, Early Harvesting for its Fruity Arbequina

By Julie Butler
Jan. 29, 2013 09:00 UTC

Joan Gras Mullerat, pres­i­dent of Arbequina i Secció de Crèdit SCCL

Olive cul­ti­va­tion amid a range of veg­e­ta­tion — includ­ing almond, apple, pear and pine trees and even some grape vines — helped Oli d’Arbeca win the sweet green fruity prize at this month’s Fira de l’Oli extra vir­gin olive oil exhi­bi­tion in Les Borges Blanques, says its pro­ducer.

Farmer Joan Gras Mullerat, pres­i­dent of Arbequina i Secció de Crèdit SCCL, the coop­er­a­tive in the Catalan province of Lleida which makes the oil, said the arbe­quina vari­ety is par­tic­u­larly influ­enced by local cli­mate and envi­ron­ment.

Because cul­ti­va­tion in our zone is very diver­si­fied, the olives pick up all these aro­mas of fruit, almonds and pine trees, and even of wine fla­vor in some parts with grape vines.”

For me it’s very dif­fi­cult but the pro­fes­sion­als can detect it,” Gras Mullerat told Olive Oil Times.

Indeed, a French per­fume com­pany recently spent time at the coop’s mill cap­tur­ing olive essence” from the waste water and was very happy with the aroma obtained, he said.

Word of mouth mar­ket­ing

The oil car­ries the Les Garrigues des­ig­na­tion of ori­gin and its main mar­ket is fine din­ing restau­rants and spe­cialty shops in Barcelona, but a large part of our sales comes from word of mouth.”

Locals who move to Barcelona are very proud of the oil and act as ambas­sadors for it, rec­om­mend­ing it to peo­ple there. That’s been very good for us,” Gras Mullerat said.

The fact that our vil­lage, Arbeca, was the birth­place of Arbequina pro­duc­tion, also sparks inter­est.”

It’s a lit­tle bit more expen­sive than some oth­ers but peo­ple value its taste and qual­ity,” he said.

Traditional groves

About 95 miles inland from Barcelona, the coop ter­rain is fairly hilly so ter­races are used. Though mainly tra­di­tional, there is also a lit­tle inten­sive cul­ti­va­tion.

The rain-fed groves are at an alti­tude of about 340 – 400m and there are few prob­lems with olive fruit fly but some­times with fun­gus, though no treat­ment was needed this sea­son.

This har­vest, which started in November and fin­ished on January 2, yielded about 1.1m kg of olives and about 200,000 liters of EVOO, Gras Mullerat said.

We have to har­vest early to beat cold snaps but the ear­lier you har­vest, the fruitier the oil,” he said.

As is now the norm for qual­ity pro­duc­ers, milling occurs within 24 hours.

Diversified farm­ing

Olive oil pro­vides about 45 per­cent of the earn­ings of the about 400 active coop farm­ers, whose other crops include cere­als, almonds, corn and fod­der, and for whom finances are gen­er­ally tight”.

The coop, which has a total of about 630 mem­bers, also has a credit and a sup­ply sec­tion. The lat­ter pro­vides fuel for coop mem­bers though they have con­sid­er­ably reduced fuel costs by recy­cling olive stones as fuel for bio­mass boil­ers, Gras Mullerat said. The coop hopes to soon also use this bio­mass for corn dry­ing. Olive tree leaves are sold cheap to farm­ers as ani­mal feed.

Molí dels Torms and Molí d’Oli Gabriel Alsina i Fills also win­ners

Two other pro­duc­ers from the province of Lleida were also among the award win­ners at the Fira de l’Oli.

Organic pro­ducer Molí dels Torms won in the fruity bit­ter green cat­e­gory with Olicatessen, a sin­gle estate coupage with arbe­quina as the base. The com­pany has won a prize at the exhi­bi­tion every year for the last five years and its inter­na­tional recog­ni­tion includes list­ing in Flos Olei and Der Feinschmecker.

The ripe fruity cat­e­gory prize went to Oli de Castelló from Molí d’Oli Gabriel Alsina i Fills, which grows about a dozen dif­fer­ent olive vari­eties, three of them the natives arbe­quina, verdiell and alforja, and has won var­i­ous inter­na­tional awards.

Arbequina i Secció de Crèdit also won the prize for best stand design in the exhibition’s olive oil pavil­ion.


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