Olive Oil Primer: A Look at the Arbequina Olive

Think of extra virgin olive oil like wine. That’s what we sometimes tell people when we talk about the different extra virgin olive oils we produce. Just like different wines are made from different grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc, different olive oils are made from different olives. Each olive varietal has its own flavor profile and personality, just like wine grapes.

A Look at the Arbequina OliveHundreds of varieties of olives are grown around the globe. We grow three varietals in California: Arbequina, Arbosana, and Koroneiki. We use the olives to produce single varietal oils — namely our Arbequina and Arbosana EVOOs — as well as blended oils like Miller’s Bend.

I’ll focus on the Arbequina olive here and look at Arbosana and Koroneiki in future posts.

We have some 10,000 acres of olive trees under cultivation across northern California, from Fresno north to Corning. Arbequina is our No. 1 olive. It represents 70% of the olives we harvest using a system known as “super high-density” (SHD) planting.

The Arbequina olive hails from Catalonia, in Spain. It has become a favorite among growers here in the Golden state. A recent report from the Olive Center at the University of California, Davis, found that Arbequina accounts for 78% percent of California’s SHD acreage, or 9,400 acres.

The Arbequina tree is relatively small. It has weeping branches. The oval-shaped olives the tree produces are small, too. The olive resists frost well. It ripens relatively early versus other varietals.

In Europe, you can sometimes find an Arbequina olive tree put in a pot and placed at the front entrance of cafés.

Our Arbequina EVOO is a “delicate” oil that delivers a lot of fruit aroma, balanced pungency, and a very pleasing clean taste. In particular, we find it tastes of ripe tropical fruits, apple, and fresh artichoke.

Our Arbequina EVOO won raves from Cook’s Illustrated for the oil’s “fresh, sweet, fruity flavor and pleasing hint of bitterness.”

Different olive oils, like different wines, pair well with particular foods. Arbequina goes well drizzled over meats to bring out the meat’s sweetness. It also goes well with “strong” pestos such as one made from wild arugula and dishes that use blue cheese. Arbequina makes a delicious ice cream, too.

We recommend using Arbequina for baking, particularly when substituting olive oil for butter. Try it in pound cake. You won’t be disappointed.

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch