`The Volcanic Olive Oils of Campo de Calatrava - Olive Oil Times

The Volcanic Olive Oils of Campo de Calatrava

Jun. 25, 2012
Olivarama

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The Campo de Calatrava region, in the very heart of La Mancha, would be incom­plete with­out the pres­ence of olive trees. These trees have sur­vived each and every one of the civ­i­liza­tions that have pop­u­lated the area over the cen­turies and, thanks to the same, now con­sti­tute a ver­i­ta­ble emblem of the region.

Just a year ago, the European Union offi­cially reg­is­tered the Protected Denomination of Origin of the same name and, since then, its pro­mot­ers have invested end­less efforts in pro­mot­ing the qual­i­ties of such an exclu­sive prod­uct.

In spite of its cur­rent bucolic and serene appear­ance, these lands have not yet suc­ceeded in com­pletely mask­ing the vir­u­lence of their more dis­tant past. Not even the pas­sage of time, which has grad­u­ally dis­guised most of the signs and symp­toms, has suc­ceeded in eras­ing all clues of its trou­bled his­tory.

Most mere mor­tals believe the Campo de Calatrava region, in the mid­dle of the Ciudad Real province, is almost a desert, colonised solely by a few crops that man­age to resist the dry soils and extreme cli­mate. Nevertheless, in the eyes of experts, the promon­to­ries that sud­denly raise the land, the hol­lows that press deeply into its sur­face, the mate­ri­als that com­pose its soils and the lagoons that pep­per the hori­zon are all essen­tial clues that bla­tantly reveal an ancient region that was plagued by vol­ca­noes.


Campo de Calatrava (Photo: University of Castilla-La Mancha)

Once the secret has been revealed, it is easy to see that the ring hills sur­round­ing the many val­leys that define the region are, in real­ity, the walls of a crater lost beneath the blan­kets of olive groves and vine­yards that pop­u­late a boiler extin­guished a long, long time ago.

A crop with a track record

The his­tory of the olive tree in the heart of La Mancha does not by any means date as far back as that of the vol­ca­noes. But it was not writ­ten yes­ter­day either. On the con­trary, var­i­ous archae­o­log­i­cal digs in the area have uncov­ered the stones of tree ger­man­ders and wild olives, indi­cat­ing that even in the sec­ond mil­len­nium before our times, the ancient inhab­i­tants extracted oil from the fruit of the wild olives.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t until the arrival of the Pheonicians first of all, and then the Romans, when the olive tree began to be mass cul­ti­vated. A cus­tom that was even strength­ened with the his­tor­i­cal arrival of the Arabs.

With its hills and val­leys, the olive grove land­scape of Campo de Calatrava has sur­vived prac­ti­cally intact to our times, pre­serv­ing all of the pecu­liar­i­ties con­ferred by the mor­pho­logic, geo­graphic and his­toric homo­gene­ity of the region it rep­re­sents.

It is pre­cisely these pecu­liar­i­ties that the Asociación para la Promoción del Aceite del Campo de Calatrava has been defend­ing since its cre­ation in November 2005, and which six years later, led to the area’s reg­is­tra­tion in the European Union’s Register of Protected Designations of Origin.

The Campo de Calatrava region in fig­ures:

  • The Campo de Calatrava olive groves share the munic­i­pal dis­tricts of 16 places in the region.
  • The olive trees are spread over a total of 8,500 olive groves, dis­trib­uted over a sur­face area of 22,073 hectares.
  • Between all of them, they have a mean annual pro­duc­tion of 5,210 tonnes of oil.

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Betwixt two lands

Geographically speak­ing, the Campo de Calatrava region is located half-way between the lands of Jaén and Toledo. While this region has its own very exclu­sive char­ac­ter­is­tics in terms of soil and cli­mate, the truth is that its strate­gic loca­tion has also man­aged to influ­ence the con­fig­u­ra­tion of its olive grove’s vari­etals.

This is so much the case that, from its south­ern neigh­bour, Jaén in other words, it has taken the Picual vari­etal while, from its north­ern neigh­bour, Toledo, it has adopted the Cornicabra vari­etal.

In real­ity, there is a big­ger rep­re­sen­ta­tion of this sec­ond vari­etal, mean­ing that ulti­mately its fruit makes up 80 per­cent of the extra vir­gins under the PDO.

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In any case, the com­bi­na­tion of both types of olive give rise to very com­plete chem­i­cal and sen­so­r­ial pro­files. Among other virtues, these extra vir­gins guar­an­tee a high oleic acid and polyphe­nol con­tent; a medium inten­sity fruiti­ness with the pres­ence of pos­i­tive attrib­utes in the nose such as green olive or fresh fruit; and quite remark­able bit­ter­ness and spici­ness in the mouth as well.

Mission accom­plished

For years now, the pro­mot­ers of the Asociación para la Promoción del Aceite del Campo de Calatrava have been fully aware that their extra vir­gin olive oil is unique and impos­si­ble to copy in any other region apart from their own. Yet they did not see their mis­sion accom­plished until, as we men­tioned above, the European Union finally recog­nised the exclu­sive­ness of their prod­uct on June 29 2011, when the PDO was reg­is­tered in the Registry of Protected Designations of Origin.

As a result, all the pro­duc­ers in the area achieved a sig­nif­i­cant goal which will not, how­ever, be the only one as they have been demon­strat­ing in the months since then.

Just because a recog­nised author­ity acknowl­edges the qual­ity of a prod­uct does not mean that the con­sumers, who ulti­mately are the ones for whom the prod­uct is made, are aware of what they are deal­ing with. With a view to cre­at­ing a solid oil cul­ture among the inhab­i­tants of its area, the PDO Aceite Campo de Calatrava has already set a num­ber of didac­tic ini­tia­tives in motion, aimed mainly at those groups the con­sump­tion of their prod­uct is depen­dent on.

These would obvi­ously be incom­plete with­out house­wives or stu­dents of the hostelry schools who, in the future, will pre­scribe this prod­uct through their recipes. These groups, together with the experts from the Spanish Cancer Association and stu­dents of var­i­ous ages have dis­cov­ered the healthy ben­e­fits of the region’s extra vir­gins and, at the same time, have con­tributed to pro­mot­ing the oil tourism phe­nom­e­non in the area.

Asociación para la Promoción del Aceite del Campo de Calatrava
C/ Ramón y Cajal, 12
13260 Bolaños de Calatrava (Ciudad Real-España/Spain)
Tel.: +34 926 693 099

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

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