Blend vs Monocultivar
We are frequently asked whether a monocultivar oil is better than a blend of multi cultivars. The best way to explain this is via wine. A wine made of a single varietal isn’t necessarily better – many of the best wines in the world are a blend of more than one variety, think Chateau Margaux, Vieux Telegraphe Chateuneuf du Pape or Sassicaia. The important point is that a blend of cultivars should be greater than the sum of its parts.
In oil terms, one of our favourite blends is Tradizione from Frantoio Viola, it combines the classic central Italian cultivars Frantoio and Leccino and it is the olive oil that started us on this journey at Frantoi.org. We use it both to cook and dress food with such is its versatility. It has a great artichoke and wild herb character plus a hint of black pepper, particularly good therefore with pulses, grains and root vegetables.
With a monocultivar olive oil, you get more defined characteristics, this is where we can differentiate more clearly from one region to another and therefore it’s more obvious which oil compliments which food.
Taggiasca (from Liguria) for example is a small, sweet olive and at its best produces elegant, mild and delicate oil without too much spice making it a great choice for grilled white fish or meat. Whereas a cultivar such as Nocellara Etnea, indigenous to Sicily is highly herbaceous featuring oregano, Jerusalem sage and cut grass: more spice, more bitterness, more decisive and therefore suited to raw foods particularly tartare or crudités.
We are increasingly seeking ingredients that have a sense of place, that truly reflect their origin in flavour and this is absolutely the case with the best examples of Extra Virgin Olive Oil either blended or monocultivar. And if you enjoy the oil as close as possible to its harvest date then the characteristics will be even more defined: fresher, more delicious and better for you.