Daily Archives: October 30, 2013

  • Argentina’s Olive Oil Industry In Crisis

    Unlike the country’s wine industry, which benefits from a strong internal market, the olive oil industry in Argentina is largely export-based, with 75 percent of the roughly 30,000 metric tons of oil produced annually being sold abroad. The table olive market is even more lopsided, exporting about 95 percent of its yearly production.

    With the costs of production rising, Argentine olive oil exports are struggling to compete on the world stage. While production volume has remained more or less constant, exports are down and there’s not a big enough internal market to absorb the difference. The resulting surplus and lackluster sales have pushed the industry into a desperate situation, with layoffs and factory closings becoming the norm, particularly among the larger producers.

    read more at oliveoiltimes

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    Unlike the country’s wine industry, which benefits from a strong internal market, the olive oil industry in Argentina is largely export-based, with 75 percent of the roughly 30,000 metric tons of oil produced annually being sold abroad. The table olive market is even more lopsided,... 
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  • The olive harvest has begun at B.R.

    The falling olives clattered onto plastic tarps like rain hitting tin roofs, knocked loose by workers with long wooden shafts that seemed fit for pole vaulting.

    The olive harvest has begun at B.R. Cohn Winery near Glen Ellen and at a number of other North Bay orchards. The olives, which will be pressed into artisan cooking and tasting oils, make up a small but growing crop with a premium cachet.

    Growers say the harvest has begun a few weeks earlier than usual. “Just like the grapes, the olives are coming in earlier this year,” said Samantha Dorsey, the farming manager for McEvoy Ranch outside Petaluma. It appears to be due to warmer summer days.

    Olives often are found at wineries. The two crops not only prefer the same climate, growers said, but their harvests occur at different times. And most wineries have the means to get the olive oils into consumers hands.

    “If you have a tasting room, you can do direct sales,” said Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne, an olive oil consultant and educators. “Plus the fact that they taste great together.”

    In 2002, agriculture officials estimated that Sonoma County had 77 acres of bearing olive trees. Five years later, that number had grown to 285 acres. And by last year, olives took up 705 acres. Still, the olive harvest’s estimated farm value of $165,000 represents a sliver of the county’s $821 million total for all crops last year. Of that total, winegrapes comprised nearly $583 million.

    At B.R. Cohn Winery, many of the nearly 500 olive trees are believed to have been planted in the 1870s and were well established when the winery opened there nearly 40 years ago.

    The harvest is done by hand.

    “It’s so labor intensive,” said Daniel Cohn, a principal at the family-owned winery. The production costs make the olive oil akin to “liquid gold,” Cohn said. A 200 milliliter bottle sells for $25.

    Across the valley, on a hill near Jack London State Park, Chris Benziger and a crew of workers were gathered around a handful of the 800 olive trees planted at Benziger Winery. He said the olive harvest requires a lot of interaction among the crew.

    “It’s super sociable,” he said. “I look forward to it.”

    The winery is planning to plant a few hundred more trees in a low spot where grapes never did very well. He looked it over, pointing to a few sheep fenced off from existing olive trees and grapevines and said, “You can almost think you’re in Greece or Italy.”

    Outside Healdsburg, the DaVero farm has just started harvesting, said Colleen McGlynn, an owner with her husband Ridgely Evers. The farm has 4,500 olive trees.

    “The crop looks light again this year, McGlynn said. The harvest normally would be closer to Thanksgiving, she said.

    Olives are a cyclical crop, said Devarenne. A bumper crop is often followed by a lighter one. “In general, this year’s yields seem to be considerably down,” Devarenne said.

    Dorsey said many farms this year have been hit by an infestation of the olive fruit fly.

    The 80 acres of olives at McEvoy Ranch have escaped harm, she said. But the ranch presses olives for about 100 growers and Dorsey has heard complaints of significant crop damage on farms from Santa Barbara to Ukiah. Still, those interviewed said the county will continue to produce premium olive oils.

    “There’s so many fantastic producers in this area,” Dorsey said. “I feel there’s a producer in our area for every style.”

    Article source pressdemocrat

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    The falling olives clattered onto plastic tarps like rain hitting tin roofs, knocked loose by workers with long wooden shafts that seemed fit for pole vaulting. The olive harvest has begun at B.R. Cohn Winery near Glen Ellen and at a number of other North Bay orchards. The olives,... 
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  • New tasting gallery features olive oil and balsamic vinegar

    Walk into Weyira Olive Oil & Vinegar Tasting Gallery, and you know you’re in a different kind of store. The walls are orange. Floor and ceiling are spring green. Rows of stainless steel jugs stand on dark wood tables.

    Inside the jugs are dozens of different olive oils and balsamic vinegars — classic ingredients of traditional cooking around the world, particularly around the Mediterranean Sea. Cards on each jug identify oils from Italy, California, Peru, Morocco.

    At Weyira, visitors can sample olive oils and balsamic vinegars before buying. Store owner Sihin Tsegaye (see-HEEN seh-KI) said Weyira appeals to foodies who value fine foods, but it’s also good for people learning about fine foods for the first time.

    “When people come here, they educate themselves,” said Tsegaye. “They don’t just buy product and leave. They educate themselves on what they get (with) the information on the cards.”

    High-end in Hagerstown

    Vinegar Tasting GalleryTsegaye said she and her family moved to Hagerstown in 2006. She is originally from Ethiopia. She said she saw a business opportunity here in Hagerstown.

    “I used to work for a nonprofit. The company ended up moving to Chicago. I decided not to relocate (to Chicago)” she said. “I’ve been looking for good product, and I fell in love with olive oil. After that decision, I said, I will do it in Hagerstown. People said, ‘You’re crazy. This is a small town. Don’t do it.’ I said, ‘People live here. I know this is an upscale product, but I know people … go somewhere else to get this product. Why don’t I give it a try?’ So I decided on that.”

    Tsegaye opened Weyira in September in Long Meadow Shopping Center on the north side of Hagerstown. The store has five tables of products —three tables of oils and two tables of vinegars. She sells extra-virgin olive oils and flavored olive oils. Flavored oils are either infused — dried herbs or fruit added to oil to give flavor, similar to making tea — or fused, in which fresh herbs and fruits are crushed with olives when the olive oil is first produced.

    In the weeks after Tsegaye opened her store, foot traffic was steady, she said. Hagers-tonians, it seems, do seem to want high-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

    The terroir of oil

    Many Americans prefer that commercial, mass-produced cheddar cheeses made in New York taste identical to cheddars made in Illinois or California.

    The same is true of vegetable oils, fruit juices, chocolates and hundreds of other mass-produced food products. Consistent flavors and low prices are important to American shoppers.

    But Europeans take a different view of foods. They value the distinct flavors of a blue cheese from Italy or England or France. They value the distinct flavors of wines, chocolates and breads from different countries.

    Which brings us back to the olive oils in Weyira. In American grocery stores, all olive oils are more or less the same. Packaging doesn’t highlight the types of olives used to produce the oil or promote the distinct flavor profile of the oil.

    Each of Tsegaye’s oils is unique, with a distinct flavor profile. She wants her customers to know about each oils origins. Her oil jugs, called fusli, have cards atop them describing the oil within. The card lists the type of olive used and the country of origin. It also describes the chemical analysis of the oil — the percentage of oleic acid, the polyphenol count, the peroxide value and the DAG score. Together, this analysis indicates the freshness and quality of the oil.

    A valuable oil

    For centuries, olive oil has been used for cooking, for ceremonial use, in cosmetics and for burning in lamps to make light. As a food, olive oil is high in antioxidants and vitamins E and K and low in cholesterol. Professional cooks consider olive oil the best oil for eating fresh or for cooking foods at moderate temperatures.

    “A lot of universities and health centers are doing research on olive oils and discovering the benefits,” Tsegaye said. “So I think that’s why it’s getting really popular.”

    Mostly, she focuses on the culinary aspects of olive oil. She sells oils ranked highly at international olive oil tastings.

    “Every year, there is a competition,” she said. “There are olive oil testers all over the world. They say, ‘This is No. 1, No. 2, No. 3.’ Most of my olive oils are best of their class. Like this one, (made of Peruvian) picual (olives), it competed for three years and it was people’s choice — that’s what I sell.”

    A valuable oil

    For centuries, olive oil has been used for cooking, for ceremonial use, in cosmetics and for burning in lamps to make light. As a food, olive oil is high in antioxidants and vitamins E and K and low in cholesterol. Professional cooks consider olive oil the best oil for eating fresh or for cooking foods at moderate temperatures.

    “A lot of universities and health centers are doing research on olive oils and discovering the benefits,” Tsegaye said. “So I think that’s why it’s getting really popular.”

    Mostly, she focuses on the culinary aspects of olive oil. She sells oils ranked highly at international olive oil tastings.

    “Every year, there is a competition,” she said. “There are olive oil testers all over the world. They say, ‘This is No. 1, No. 2, No. 3.’ Most of my olive oils are best of their class. Like this one, (made of Peruvian) picual (olives), it competed for three years and it was people’s choice — that’s what I sell.”

    Olive oil 101

    To make olive oil, olives are crushed and pressed as soon after harvest as possible. Traditionally, olives are crushed under large, wheel-shaped stones. Newer techniques finely grind olives, pits and all, between two stones. Later, the pits are filtered out.

    Extracting the oil has also undergone a technological upgrade. The centuries-old technique involved pressing olive mash under heavy weight. Some producers still use this method. Contemporary producers use spinning centrifuges to extract olive oil.

    The best-quality oil —extra virgin olive oil, or EVOO — is produced without heating the olive oil. Heat extracts more oil, but also degrades quality.

    Tsegaye offers customers tastes of her oils in small plastic cups. Once a customer make a purchase, she decants the oil into dark glass bottles.

    “If you go to supermarket, you find, a lot of time, olive oil is stored in clear bottles. They put it in the light. That olive oil has already lost all the nutrition and health benefits,” she said. “Once you buy our oil, we put it in a dark bottle. And then you have to (store) it in a dark place, not to expose it to light or heat, and it will be good for one year.”

    Like oil and vinegar

    To go with her olive oils, Tsegaye sells a variety of quality balsamic vinegars. This type of vinegar is nothing like white vinegar sold at the grocery store, she said.

    “If you try the supermarket vinegar, you don’t get flavor,” she said. “Here, whichever vinegar you sample, you get different, distinct flavor.”

    Balsamic vinegar is fermented like wine, she said, but all alcohol is fermented out. The resulting product is thick, rich and very slightly sweet. It is typically aged for three years, five years, eight years or even longer. Tsegaye offers a 18-year-old vinegar.

    “It gets better, tastewise, as it ages,” she said.

    As with the olive oils, some vinegars are simple and unflavored while others are flavored.

    “We have black — dark — and white vinegar,” she said. “In the (flavored) white ones, there is cranberry-pear, Sicilian lemon, jalapeno — it depends on your choice of flavor.”

    Balsamic vinegars are eaten fresh, as in salad dressing, or used in cooking to add complex, sharp flavor. Some people serve a shot of aged balsamic vinegar as a zesty drink.

    So far, Tsegaye is happy with the way her business is going. And she’s happy to see people educating themselves on vinegar and olive oil.

    “I was looking for a product that is a good product. I believe in it. And then I can tell people how to use it and get benefit out of it,” she said. “Someone comes here, we let them know what are on different tables. They look around and see what they would like to try. And then, they try it.”

    source heraldmailmedia

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    Walk into Weyira Olive Oil & Vinegar Tasting Gallery, and you know you’re in a different kind of store. The walls are orange. Floor and ceiling are spring green. Rows of stainless steel jugs stand on dark wood tables. Inside the jugs are dozens of different olive oils and... 
    Read More →