Welcome ladies and gentleman to the main event of the week! In the category of Culinary Boxing here at Chef’s Mandala, we have weighing in at 8.8 ounces from local olive oil terroirs all over the world, please welcome monovarietals! His opponent, weighing in at 17.6 ounces from Italy by way of Spain by way of Tunisia, please welcome blends!
LET’S GET READY TO RRRRR…….HAVE A SPIRITED DEBATE ON FOOD!!!
In the Red Corner – BLENDS
Blends are what most people think of when it comes to olive oil. While monovarietals have gained somewhat in popularity, the art of blending makes this fighter a force to be reckoned with. What great coaches like Cus D’Amato did for Mike Tyson, a master blender does for olive oil. Spanish oils for example tend to be a mix of Arbequina, Picual and Hojiblanca. In contrast Italian blends often use Leccino, Coratino, Frantoio, Nocellara, and Taggiasca or Moraiolo. Regional blends like from Sicily include popular local cultivars such as Nocellara. But the ability to create a consistent yet new recipe each year takes decades of practice. Sometimes an olive variety needs to be harvested earlier. Other times the percentage used of a particular olive is reduced. Cold pressing (keeping the temperature under 27 °C / 81 °F) is just one of many tools used by these master craftsmen.
In the Blue Corner – MONOVARIETAL
Our challenger is an olive oil that is made from only one type of olive. Long ago farmers would plant different types of olive trees in their orchards. If the weather was too dry one year, at least some of your olives would thrive while others would suffer. Too wet the following year, and again the farmer would be able to harvest a portion of his crop. Some experts argue that an olive oil made from a single cultivar yields an undiluted crisp, clean flavor. Others say that if the harvest is great that year, wonderful! But if the harvest sucks and your oil doesn’t taste that good, what do you do then? As premium olive oils have grown in popularity, some farmers have uprooted their mixed cultivar orchards. By replanting the trees with one variety in each area, it is easier to control and modify the blending process.
- The Play-By-Play
Both fighters approach the center of the ring, smooth in their motion and demeanor. Surely monovarietal must feel a little bit worried, considering how easily a blend can compensate for seasonal flaws.
AND THE WINNER IS….
Blends win! While monovarietals can put your average consumer more directly in touch with how a given terroir changes from season to season, there are many, many olive oil terroirs across the world. If one season’s harvest isn’t up to par, most consumers will just switch to another olive oil from somewhere else.