Tuscany is one of the biggest olive oil producers in the world. There are different kinds of olive oil and, as you probably know, the best of the production is called EXTRA VIRGIN...but what does EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil mean and what's so special about Tuscany's olive oil?
According to European regulations, you can find four kinds of olive oils:
Extra virgin olive oil: obtained by mechanical pressing, without any treatment other than washing, decantation, filtration, with a maximum acid value of 0.8 %;
Virgin olive oil: obtained like the extra virgin olive oil but with a degree of acidity of up to 2 %;
Olive oil: obtained from virgin olive oil, and blended with refined olive oil that has undergone a chemical process aimed at the elimination of defects;
Olive-pomace : obtained from the cutting of virgin olive oil with refined oil residue, which by itself is not edible; it is what is left from the olive paste after oil extraction.
Tuscan extra virgin olive oil is world famous for its pungent, bitter, fruity and vegetal flavor. In Tuscany, the harvesting stage occurs in the month of November, the olives are mostly picked by hand and immediately sent to be pressed.
Tuscan extra virgin olive oil benefits from specific European legislation that guarantees its authenticity, its quality and its geographic link to specific areas. According to European regulations, consumers who purchase a product protected with the DOP and IGP(PDO and IGP) labels can be certain that these products have precise geographic origins. However, there are some Tuscan consortiums and small organic manufacturers, who have not opted for this recognition but sell directly to the consumer or export a high-quality Tuscan extra virgin olive oil all over the world.
Here are the three main steps of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil production process:
Producers should only pick fresh olives that are still hanging on the branches, being careful to avoid bruising or lacerations that may damage their surface. ‘Cropping’, a manual method, is undoubtedly the best way to harvest, as it ensures in-depth screening.
Transport to the mill should be done as quickly as possible as this is the most delicate and most important stage. During processing, the olives are washed and separated from the leaves. They are then pressed and reduced to pulp. Traditional stone grinders can be used for this process.