As a consumer, you might be asking yourself “What is California olive oil?”
Is olive oil different based on where it comes from? We thought we would check in with our General Manager and Level Two Olive Oil Sommelier, Marisa Bloch Gaytan, to share some information on this topic.
Most people know Italy for its olive oil, but Spain is actually the largest producer of olive oil in the world. In general, when people think of extra virgin olive oil their minds tend to go to Europe because they have been producing olive oil for centuries. Olive oil is a fairly new industry in the United States, at least when it comes to producing it, so why choose California olive oil?
If you live in the United States, think about it this way. Extra virgin olive oil is best consumed when it is first produced. After that, you want to use it within approximately two years from that date, however some oils can last longer than that. If your EVOO has to come all the way from Europe, you are wasting precious consumption time on travel. Just like getting your produce at a local farmers market, why not get your olive oil close to home as well? Pasolivo welcomes people to come and view our property where you can see the trees, view the mill, and taste the olive oils before purchasing them. When you buy local, California olive oil, you are more easily able to monitor the freshness and quality of oil you are purchasing.
So what is California olive oil? By definition, it is extra virgin olive oil that is produced in California using California grown olives. If an EVOO says California on the label, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a true California olive oil. Some producers purchase oil from other countries to blend with their California oil. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this practice, but it means the olive oil is no longer single sourced and was not solely produced in California. The oils may not even be produced at the same time. California legislature is currently working on passing a bill (AB-535) on olive oil labeling in California. This bill would require olive oils that say California olive oil or other terms that allude to the oil being produced in California, to consist of 100 percent olives grown in California. Just like purchasing any olive oil from the grocery store, consumers need to watch out for false labeling to ensure they are getting the quality they are looking for. This is why I always recommend buying directly from the source/producer whenever possible. But do California olive oil producers offer the same quality as the oils that come from Europe?
Many parts of California have similar climate and soil to that of parts of Europe where most olives are grown. This makes California another ideal place to grow this wonderful crop. Pasolivo is located on the Central Coast of California in Paso Robles where the winters are moderate and the summers are warm, which is perfect for olives. California olive oil producers also use the same equipment that is used in Europe to process their olive oils. Producing quality olive oil is all about the farming practices, how you harvest your olives, how quickly you get the olives to the mill, your milling practices and how you store the olive oil once it is produced. Pasolivo prides itself on growing our own olives, milling them in our own mill, bottling the oils on property and selling direct to consumer in order to control the quality from start to finish.
If California olive oils want to get certified as extra virgin olive oil, they must conduct a series of lab tests and send their oils to get certified. In order to obtain certification, there are certain labs and panels that are approved internationally. Most producers in California choose to use the California Olive Oil Council for certification. The California Olive Oil Council has some of the strictest requirements in the world to get certified. This means that an oil could potentially get certified by a different panel, but not pass the requirement for the California Olive Oil Council. EVOO’s need to pass lab tests as well as sensory analysis to ensure the quality and integrity of the oil.
So to recap, what is California olive oil? It is extra virgin olive oil that is grown and produced in California to the highest quality standards, just like the olive oils from Europe. California olive oil has stood its ground in international competitions, winning awards that make it some of the best olive oil in the world. In fact, Pasolivo became the top award-winning olive oil producer in the United States for the 2021 New York International Olive Oil Competition, taking home five gold medals. The best part? United State consumers don’t have to get their oil shipped from Europe; instead, they can buy it from their own backyard.