`Upstart Albea Blanca Strikes Gold - Olive Oil Times

Upstart Albea Blanca Strikes Gold

Jun. 8, 2015
Wendy Logan

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Though no one would doubt his level of intel­lect, it might seem a bit of a stretch to imag­ine that an aero­space and avi­a­tion expert could become an award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oil pur­veyor in just one year. Yet that’s exactly what Spain’s Alfonso Palazuelo did. As direc­tor of the Compañía Española de Técnica Aeronáutica, Palazuelo has long been trav­el­ing the world. Throughout fre­quent vis­its to the United States, dri­ven by his side” pas­sion for gas­tron­omy, he began to notice an absence of the high-qual­ity olive oils enjoyed by Spanish chefs com­ing out of American kitchens.

So in May of 2014, Palazuelo decided to try his hand at the world of Spanish olives and their nec­tar. He hired the enthu­si­as­tic Maria Ubago to spear­head the entire oper­a­tion, do a com­pre­hen­sive study of Spanish regional grow­ers, and select the cream of the crop to bring together under the name Albea Blanca.

His dream was to have his own superb EVOO col­lec­tion from dif­fer­ent parts of Spain,” she said in a recent inter­view with Olive Oil Times. So he con­tracted me to develop this brand. I spent a year study­ing olive groves, olive vari­eties, and high-tech olive mills, and I trav­eled around both Spain and Italy, vis­it­ing with well-known con­nois­seurs, pro­duc­ers, machin­ery man­u­fac­tur­ers, and tasters in the sec­tor.”

Albea Blanca’s Maria Ubago (right) accepted her awards in New York

Ubago was on a mis­sion to unearth small grow­ers who have the utmost respect for the envi­ron­ment and who pro­duce an organic prod­uct using only the fresh­est fruits under the strin­gent, high qual­ity, whole process require­ments of the indus­try. To extract the true essence of an olive cul­ti­var and its sin­gu­lar attrib­utes and essence, she said, means that each per­son, each step, every piece of the pro­duc­tion process” is crit­i­cal to the fin­ished prod­uct.

Of the hun­dreds of indige­nous olive vari­eties in Spain, only a few are well known. For Albea Blanca, I selected four vari­eties,” Ubago explained. All of them have stood up well through strin­gent chem­i­cal tests, show­ing very high amounts of nat­ural antiox­i­dants crit­i­cal to both the nutri­tional value and the oil’s shelf-life sta­bil­ity.

Albea Blanca’s first efforts yielded just 3,000 liters with capac­ity to expand going for­ward. The company’s Cornicabra hails from a grove in Los Navalmorales, on the north side of Cabañeros Natural Reserve in Toledo (a province in Central Spain). Also sourced from a nat­ural reserve is their Hojiblanca, made from fruit grown in the moun­tains of the south­east province of Córdoba.

Four for Four: Albea Blanca’s award-winning extra virgin olive oils.

The indige­nous Greek Koroneiki olive also flour­ishes in Spain, and Ubago found a grower in the small town of Casasbuenas in the province of Toledo, whose ancient olive groves are set along­side a land­scape rife with almond trees. All three of the oils took Gold Awards at this year’s New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC). Their fourth entry, a Manzanilla Cacereña, pro­duced from olive trees from a small grove in Sierra de Gata bor­der­ing Portugal, took a Silver Award.

After set­tling on the col­lec­tion, We sent the oils to the NYIOOC just to see if it really was a good selec­tion. We thought so, but it is bet­ter when an inter­na­tional, expert tast­ing panel rec­og­nizes it!”

What a sur­prise when all of them won an award!” Ubago said. I cried, because it was a recog­ni­tion of my hard work in devel­op­ing the brand. My boss felt so happy and proud. It was a dream come true, a rewarded invest­ment, and an oppor­tu­nity to build the brand. We like the American mar­ket and its demand­ing con­sumers,” said Ubago.

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