` The Volcanic Olive Oils of Campo de Calatrava

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The Volcanic Olive Oils of Campo de Calatrava

Jun. 25, 2012
By 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)

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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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