Exploring Olive Oil Varietals From Around The World

Exploring Olive Oil Varietals From Around The World

We love Olive Oil at Saratoga Olive Oil Company.  This is probably why my wife and I would bring Olive Oil back from Europe to New York long before there was the internet and easy ordering from afar.  We loved canvassing the countryside of different regions and tasting the unique flavor profiles of Olive Oil. Like wine, each region that produces olive oil imparts its specific characteristics, influenced by local climate, soil, and most importantly the actual olive varietal.  Come take a trip with us and learn about the different varietals and the unique flavor profiles from around the world. 


Mediterranean Marvels: Italy, Spain, and Greece

Italy, renowned for its gastronomic excellence, offers a wide range of olive oil varietals, each with distinct regional characteristics. Tuscany's olive oils, such as those made from the Frantoio, Leccino, and Moraiolo olives, are celebrated for their robust and peppery flavor. These oils often exhibit a grassy aroma with hints of artichoke and a pleasantly bitter finish, making them perfect for drizzling over bruschetta or enhancing the flavors of hearty soups and stews.

In contrast, the olive oils from Southern Italy, particularly from Sicily and Puglia, are known for their fruity and mild profiles. Sicilian olive oils, often derived from the Nocellara del Belice olive, have a buttery texture with a slight bitterness and a fruity aroma, reminiscent of fresh tomatoes and almonds. Puglian oils, typically made from the Ogliarola and Coratina olives, offer a balance of fruitiness and bitterness with a peppery kick, ideal for pairing with grilled vegetables and seafood.



As the world's largest producer of olive oil, Spain boasts a diverse array of varietals, each reflecting the country's varied landscapes and climates. Andalusia, in southern Spain, is famous for its Picual olive oil, known for its high stability and rich, robust flavor. Picual oil is intensely fruity with notes of green olive, fig leaf, and tomato, coupled with a pronounced bitterness and pungency. This makes it an excellent choice for cooking, as it retains its flavor even at high temperatures.

In contrast, the Arbequina olive oil from Catalonia offers a milder, more delicate flavor profile. Arbequina oil is characterized by its buttery, almond-like taste with subtle hints of apple and banana. Its gentle, sweet flavor makes it a favorite for salad dressings, baked goods, and as a finishing oil for delicate dishes.



Greek olive oil is synonymous with the Mediterranean diet, known for its health benefits and rich flavor. The Koroneiki olive, prevalent in Crete and the Peloponnese, produces oil with a robust, peppery taste and a fruity aroma. Koroneiki oil is often described as having a strong green flavor with notes of freshly cut grass, artichoke, and herbs. Its boldness makes it ideal for robust dishes such as lamb, feta cheese, and hearty salads.

Another notable Greek varietal is the Athinolia olive, grown primarily in the Peloponnese. Athinolia oil is milder and fruitier, with a smooth texture and hints of apple and almond. Its balanced flavor makes it versatile for both cooking and finishing, enhancing dishes without overpowering them.


New World Discoveries: California, Australia, and South America


California has emerged as a significant player in the olive oil industry, producing high-quality oils that rival those of the Mediterranean. The state's diverse climate allows for the cultivation of various olive varietals, including Arbequina, Mission, and Koroneiki. California olive oils are known for their freshness and vibrant flavors, often exhibiting grassy, fruity, and peppery notes.

The Mission olive, a varietal unique to California, produces a mild, buttery oil with a slight sweetness and hints of green apple and herbs. This oil is versatile, suitable for both cooking and finishing. The state's Arbequina and Koroneiki oils, similar to their Mediterranean counterparts, offer a range of flavors from mild and fruity to robust and peppery, catering to diverse culinary needs.



Australia's olive oil industry has grown rapidly, with a focus on producing high-quality, extra virgin olive oil. Australian olive oils are often praised for their purity and distinctive flavors, largely due to the country's strict quality standards and innovative production techniques. Varietals such as Barnea, Frantoio, and Manzanillo thrive in Australia's climate, producing oils with unique flavor profiles.

Barnea oil, originally from Israel but now widely cultivated in Australia, has a fresh, fruity flavor with a hint of green tea and a mild peppery finish. Frantoio oil, similar to its Italian counterpart, offers a grassy, artichoke-like flavor with a robust bitterness and pungency. Manzanillo oil, derived from Spanish olives, is known for its balanced flavor with notes of green apple, almond, and a slight bitterness, making it suitable for a wide range of culinary applications.


South America

South America's olive oil production is relatively new but rapidly expanding, particularly in Argentina and Chile. The region's unique climate and soil conditions contribute to distinctive olive oil flavors, often characterized by their freshness and intensity.

Argentinian olive oils, particularly those from the Arauco varietal, are known for their robust, peppery flavor with notes of green leaves, herbs, and a slightly bitter finish. Arauco oil is ideal for bold dishes such as grilled meats and hearty stews. Chilean olive oils, often made from Arbequina, Frantoio, and Picual olives, offer a range of flavors from mild and fruity to robust and peppery. These oils are versatile, suitable for both cooking and finishing, enhancing the flavors of various dishes.


Exotic Flavors: Middle East and North Africa


Turkey, a country with a rich history of olive cultivation, produces olive oils that are gaining international recognition. The Memecik olive, native to Turkey's Aegean region, produces oil with a fruity, aromatic flavor and a balanced bitterness and pungency. Memecik oil is often described as having notes of green apple, artichoke, and almond, making it suitable for both cooking and finishing.



Morocco, known for its diverse cuisine, also offers unique olive oils, particularly from the Picholine Marocaine olive. This oil is characterized by its robust, fruity flavor with hints of green tea, herbs, and a peppery finish. Picholine Marocaine oil is ideal for traditional Moroccan dishes such as tagines and couscous, adding depth and richness to the flavors.

Exploring the diverse range of olive oil varietals from around the world is a culinary adventure that reveals the intricate relationship between terroir, olive varietals, and traditional production methods. Each region imparts its unique characteristics, creating a rich tapestry of flavors and aromas that enhance and elevate dishes. Whether it's the robust and peppery oils of Italy, the mild and fruity oils of Spain, or the fresh and vibrant oils of California, each varietal offers a unique taste of its origin, inviting us to savor the world through the versatile and delectable medium of olive oil.