Olio Nuovo: An Ancient Italian Tradition Gets the California Treatment

Olio Nuovo or “New Oil” has long been a culinary tradition in Italy. The name refers to the best and freshest unfiltered oils made from olives harvested during the first two weeks of the season. Here at California Olive Ranch, we call our Olio Nuovo “Limited Reserve.” Because the oil is so new it tends to be green, grassy, and more fruity tasting than the extra virgin olive oil produced later on. Our award-winning Master Miller Bob Singletary honors this age-old tradition at our state-of-the-art mill in Artois. “The process is intense,” Bob says, “We taste at least 20 different oils to come up with the perfect blend for our Limited Reserve.”

Just like in Italy, the oils for our Limited Reserve olio nuovo are chosen within the first week or two of the fall harvest. After the oil is freshly pressed from olives just delivered from our ranches , Bob and his team of certified tasters seek out the most robust and fruity flavors. Once these flavors are discovered, they direct those oils into special tanks. After the oil selection is reviewed and approved by the sales department, they are bottled and affixed with a distinctive label.

According to certified taster and quality control specialist Mary Bolton, the 2015 Limited Reserve is a blend of early harvest Arbequina and Koroneiki olives. Thanks to the Arbequina olives, the oil has a medium aroma with flavors of fresh-cut grass and green banana. A slightly bitter mouth-feel ends with a mild lingering pungency. The early harvest Koroneiki olives lend an aroma of fresh tomato leaves and herbal green tea, with a medium kick of bitterness ending in a strong pungency that balances out the oil.

These oils aren’t meant to be displayed on your shelves with only occasional use! Since they are ultra-fresh, to get the best flavor, make sure to use within a few months of purchase. Limited Reserve makes an excellent finishing oil. Try it on steamed greens, lentil salad, pasta (of course), polenta, goat cheese, grilled or seared fish, herb salad, or your favorite soup. In Tuscany, where the tradition originates, people grill crusty bread over an open flame and douse it with olio nuovo for a simple, delectable lunch that would make Alice Waters proud. However you use it, culinary history proves olio nuovo to be a unique and delicious culinary experience, one that now comes straight to you from California olive orchards. How’s that for fresh and new?


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