Everything you need to know about Olive Oil

Everything you need to know about Olive Oil

The Portuguese word for olive oil, ‘Azeite’(Az-Zait), originates from the Arab vocabulary and means olive juice (azeitona is the Portuguese word for olive). In 2000 B.C., olive oil was used as a beauty product in Egypt. Later, during the Greek colonisation, in the 7th century B.C., it was brought to the West: Italy, North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula.


Olive oil has always played an important role in the country’s economy. Currently, Portugal represents 3% of the global olive oil production – 90 000 tons -, and is also a major exporter – 66 000 tons. Brazil, USA, Canada and Angola are the principal export markets.

Choosing an olive oil can be as complex as choosing a wine: there are monovarietals (like our Cordovil) and blends (like our Selecção); some are produced from ripe olives, others using green olives, some from a combination of various degrees of ripeness and others with an emphasis on the terroir.

There are also different categories of olive oil, such as extra virgin olive oils (the best and purest), virgin, lampantes (flawed and unfit for consumption) and refined (refined lampante blended with virgin olive oil).

There are also PDO olive oils, Protected Designation of Origin, defined in the European Union’s legislation. Portugal has six PDO regions: Trás-os-Montes, Beira Interior, Ribatejo, Norte Alentejano, Alentejo Interior and Moura.


EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: olive oil with a healthy olive flavour and aroma. No organoleptic flaws. Acidity equal to or below 0.8%.

VIRGIN OLIVE OIL: good quality olive oil, with a healthy olive flavour and aroma. Acidity equal to or below 2%.

REFINED OLIVE OIL: refined olive oil enriched with virgin olive oil, and acidity equal to or below 1%.


GALEGA: this is the oldest and most widespread variety in Portugal. It tends to have irregular productions and, despite high productivity, it has low yield. The olives should be picked green to obtain quality olive oils, with characteristics that are smooth, sweet, slightly fruity, with touches of apple and nuts. Not too bitter or spicy.

COBRANÇOSA: a variety that originates in Trás-os-Montes and is quite common all over the country, with an average and stable yield. Produces fruity olive oils with predominantly herbaceous aromas, like freshly cut grass. Slightly bitter but spicy.

CORDOVIL: a variety from the Serpa region, which is quite productive but irregular. The olive oil is intensely fruity with a predominance of herbaceous aromas, like olive leaf. A variety that can also be consumed as table olives.

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We began with an ambitious wine estate that, in its second generation, decided to expand and, in 1997, started to produce quality olive oil. In 2016 we took another major step in our olive oil production, building a new olive oil mill at Herdade do Esporão.

Entering this new market was driven by the desire to apply the know-how acquired in wine production to produce great quality olive oils. Thus, like with our wines, we strive to make our olive oils an expression of their origin.

All of our olive oils, which are exclusively extra virgin or virgin, are produced using natural methods and completely traditional processes, preserving the pure juice of the olives we pick.

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In Portugal, the harvest usually take place during the months of October and November, although, for some varieties it can last until December or January. The harvesting process is limited by the weather conditions that occur throughout the entire year and influence the quality of the olives. The decision to begin the campaign is also based on the specific characteristics of each variety, since some need to be picked earlier and others later in order to guarantee the quality of the fruit and, later, of the olive oil.

At our Olival dos Arrifes grove, in Herdade do Esporão, the olives are handpicked with the help of a rake in order to avoid damaging the olive branches.

The olives are transported in trailers, separated by varieties and delivered to the mill, also located at Herdade do Esporão, immediately following picking to be processed right away.

Extraction begins by grinding the fruit rapidly. After being ground, the resulting paste is churned briefly at a very low temperature in order to enable the olive oil to be released from the pulp cells and preserve the distinctive aromas of the varieties, which will be reflected in our Olival dos Arrifes organic olive oil.

The paste is then sent to the decanter where the olive oil is separated from the pomace and water, resulting in an olive oil that still contains some humidity and impurities. The olive oil is cleaned by centrifugation and is then immediately filtered and packaged.