Taste Brazilian olive oil and you will find out a new passion. Our oils are already known for their freshness and specific notes of flavor. However, the main feature of Brazilian production is the short period between harvesting olives, extracting the oil, and selling the product. This ensures that the extra virgin olive oil is fresh and tasty at the consumers’ table.
The first more consistent research on olive cultivation in Brazil dates back to the 1970s, although there have been attempts registered since the 19th century. Currently, the production is centered around two regions, where the conditions are more favorable. In the Southeast Region, it is produced in Serra da Mantiqueira, which extends to the states of Minas Gerais, São Paulo, and Rio de Janeiro. The mild climate also contributes to production in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, and Paraná. During winter, negative temperatures are common in these states, which is essential for good harvesting.
The annual harvest in Serra da Mantiqueira began at the end of January. This year, producers and experts are hoping for record production in the region, which is expected to exceed 21,100 gallons of oil extracted in 2018. A researcher at the Agricultural Research Company of Minas Gerais (EPAMIG), Pedro Moura explains that last year’s weather conditions contributed to this scenario. “We had good flowering and excellent fruiting due to the cold registered during the winter. The region was hit by three very strong cold waves between July and August, and this benefited the olive groves,” Moura says.
Since the first olive oil extraction carried out by EPAMIG in 2008, technologies have been improved, and planted areas have been expanding by about 20% a year. Each year, the improvement of production processes enhances the product’s quality. This year’s harvest in Serra da Mantiqueira began at the end of January and continues until the end of March. Moura points out that most of the olives picked in this first month are greener, which provides oil that is bitterer and spicier.
Olive grower Vanessa Bianco, from the municipality of Baependi, in the south of Minas Gerais, says that she takes advantage of both moments to harvest olives used in the production of the Olivais Gamarra oils. “We began the harvest on January 17th. We choose to begin when the olives are quite green but already at a point when they have oil, to obtain a more intense flavor. We press the most mature olives, which have a more fruity flavor, with Sicilian lemon,” she explains.
According to Bianco, the extraction on her property is done by a mechanical press developed on the farm. She says that in 2022 the production will reach 130 gallons of olive oil, three times the amount of the previous harvest. Currently, all the olive oil produced is consumed in the Mantiqueira region. Having received a medal in the last three editions of the Brazil International Olive Oil Competition, Bianco reinforces the importance of taking part in awards as much as possible.
This year’s sales have just begun. “We have already started marketing unfiltered olive oil, which we call ‘Gamarra Novo olive oil.’ It is much more intense, has a certain spiciness and a more marked bitterness because it is freshly extracted. In mid-March, we will start marketing a small single-varietal batch of Koroneiki, Sicilian lemon oil, and our field blend, which this year will include in its composition the Coratina and Picual varieties—which are in the first harvest. This brings together the traditional Koroneiki, Arbequina, Maria da Fé, and Grappolo,” concludes Vanessa.
It was in 2007, in Andradas, Minas Gerais, at 14,500 feet above sea level, in the volcanic soils of Serra da Mantiqueira that the Borriello family found the perfect characteristics to develop the first olive seedlings and produce the award-winning Borriello Olive Oil. “It all began when we decided to plant olive trees, with the idea of making oil for our family. We set up an experimental field on the farm in 2007, in partnership with EPAMIG. In 2014, when we harvested 8 tons of olives, we realized that we had the terroir suitable for cultivation. From there, we decided to expand the olive groves and launch our brand,” says producer Carla Borriello.
She explains that the oil quality is not determined only by the olive—the care goes from the soil to the potting. Made from a blend that varies with each harvest—it may contain species such as Arbequina, Koroneiki, Grappolo, and Picual in different proportions—the oil has a medium body, with aromas of freshly cut grass and notes of green apple and spices. In one’s mouth, soft bitterness and a pleasant and persistent sting denote its high quality. It is an oil with a smooth, fruity, and very fresh flavor—ideal for finishing light dishes and desserts.
It’s very low acidity, of less than 0.2%, is a confirmation that the fruits do not undergo oxidation between harvesting and pressing. “The olives are harvested at the right time of maturation, and the oil is extracted within three hours after harvest in the farm’s mill, thus preventing oxidation and fermentation of the fruits. The result is a very fresh product with low acidity,” explains Carla Borriello. Today, the olive oil produced on her farm is one of the most awarded in Brazil, with haute cuisine restaurants as its main buyers.
“It brings great satisfaction to know that we managed to reach the level of international quality and win awards. When we see our olive oil in the main restaurants in São Paulo, it also brings us a lot of joy,” says Borriello. Today, the Borriello olive oil celebrates important awards for three consecutive years, such as the Flos Olei—from the most prestigious olive oil guide published in Italy.