40% of the world’s olive cultivars are produced in Italy. Here is what you need to know to fully enjoy all the different kinds of Italian olives and olive oils, coming from different terroirs. Disclaimer: green olives and black olives do not belong to different cultivars!
Olives are the only ingredient of olive oil. Olives are initially green. Their colour change into violet as they ripen, and turns to pitch black when their ripening is complete. At this stage, the fruits fall off the trees spontaneously. From the Middle East, the olive tree spread throughout the Mediterranean Basin, thanks to wind pollination and human vectors. As soon as it took root in Italy, the species began differentiating into the current cultivars. There are over 1,600 olive varieties in the world, at least 630 of which in Italy alone, that is 40% of the world’s olive cultivars. The territory of Italy is long and narrow, crossed by the Alps and Apennines from north to south, resulting in different landscapes, latitudes, and, consequently, different microclimates. That allows Italy to yield different types of olive.
Not all the olive oils produced in Italy are extra-virgin. According to its level of free oleic acid, the oil is classified as extra-virgin, virgin and lampante. A team of experts will determine whether the oil is extra-virgin or not, after due inspection.