In recent years there has been a rapid evolution of eating styles increasingly attentive to the various elements that contribute to defining quality in terms of “uniqueness”: the consumption of products with a substantially homologated taste is increasingly accompanied by that of products with their own pronounced identity.
Some products – such as wine, extra virgin olive oil, coffee, and chocolate – for which the origin of raw materials is an essential factor, are considered not only as a means of gratifying the palate but also as an opportunity for knowledge and experience. It is a new philosophy of pleasure, a combination of senses and intellect, which drives the most sought-after consumers to embark on a journey to discover the identity, both historical and cultural, of a product.
It is a long journey that starts from the knowledge of the production phase (such as the raw materials and agronomic techniques used) and that finishes, at the tasting, as a synthesis of multi-sensory pleasure understood through an intimate understanding of the characteristics of the finished product.
Extra virgin olive oil of “single origin” represents a fascinating journey that takes place in space and time. Like it is for wine, the quality of an extra virgin olive oil is intimately linked to the “terroir” that generated it. Indeed, the combination of different agronomic factors, cultural traditions and local experience all contribute to give an oil its particular identity.
The link between olive varieties (cultivars) and localized areas as the result of a slow selection process is the factor that most characterizes the “uniqueness” of an extra virgin olive oil. With about 700 cultivars (almost 50% of the world varietal heritage), located in natural environments that are unique due to the combination of soil, exposure and climate, Italy is the country with the richest biodiversity, both in terms of genetic factors and of ecosystems: from the sweet oil of the Taggiasca cultivar, typical of the western part of Liguria, to the intense fruity oil with a hint of artichoke from the Frantoio, Moraiolo, and Leccino cultivars, typical of Tuscany and Umbria, to the spicy bitter oil from the Coratina cultivar typical of northern Bari and even to the particularly fragrant oils from Cerasuola, Nocellara del Belice and Biancolilla cultivars in Sicily.
The market response is the transition from a range of substantially conformed oils (divided generally in “intense” and “light”) to a wide range of “gourmet oils”, each with its own recognizable identity.