` Spanish Wine Country Celebrates its Olive Oil - Olive Oil Times

Spanish Wine Country Celebrates its Olive Oil

Mar. 17, 2016
Erin Ridley

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Within Spain’s world-renowned La Rioja wine coun­try, the smaller Rioja Alavesa region is syn­ony­mous with all things vino. But it isn’t just about wine in this south­ern pocket of Spanish Basque Country, and the upcom­ing Fifth Annual Olive Oil Festival will very much make the case for that.

These days, it is more and more about the oil. Oscar Jiménez Ibáñez, a mem­ber of La Equidad, the region’s largest coop­er­a­tive (of which there are three), explained to Olive Oil Times that peo­ple are look­ing to go beyond wine, and are there­fore turn­ing to olive oil.” With that in mind, more winer­ies also turn to olive oil by doing tast­ings and demonstrations.

Rioja Alavesa is keen to put a spot­light on what it believes is another of its star prod­ucts: extra vir­gin olive oil. Its oil is typ­i­cally made from the local Arróniz vari­ety, which is grown exclu­sively in Spain’s Rioja Alavesa and Navarra regions. Small in size, the olive is char­ac­ter­ized by its high polyphe­nols, and a result­ing oil that has bit­ter and pun­gent attributes.

The fes­ti­val in honor of Rioja Alavesa’s liq­uid gold will span sev­eral of the region’s olive oil-pro­duc­ing towns, includ­ing Oyón on March 19th, Lanciego on March 26th, and Moreda de Álava on March 27th.

The event will begin with olive mill vis­its, olive oil tast­ings, and even pringada eat­ing. The lat­ter entails toast driz­zled with freshly pro­duced olive oil and then sprin­kled with sugar. The regional break­fast and snack grew in pop­u­lar­ity in the 1940s after the civil war, explained Oscar, and has since formed part of daily cul­ture here. My daugh­ter eats it reg­u­larly as a snack.”

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The fes­tiv­i­ties con­tinue from an ancient olive mill visit (at Oscar’s coop­er­a­tive, La Equidad), to a street mar­ket fea­tur­ing local culi­nary prod­ucts, and a char­ity raf­fle to win one’s weight in olive oil. Also, given that this part of Spain is famous for its pin­txos (essen­tially Basque Country’s gourmet ver­sion of the tapa), there will be an olive oil-inspired pin­txos contest.

When it comes to olive oil, there is cer­tainly a lot to cel­e­brate: As olive oil con­sump­tion goes up world­wide, things are no dif­fer­ent here in Rioja Alavesa. Oscar affirmed that inter­est in and con­sump­tion of the region’s oil is def­i­nitely ris­ing. But, he noted, increas­ing over­all pro­duc­tion will depend on the slow growth of the trees rather than just the grow­ing demands of consumers.

Ultimately, said Oscar, our region’s pro­duc­tion of olive oil is small (he esti­mates roughly 70,000 kilos a year), but it’s high in qual­ity.” And that alone is def­i­nitely worth toast­ing to — though per­haps with a glass of extra vir­gin and not just wine.


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