Liguria, an excellent oil amidst many difficulties

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Everyone knows the features of the Ligurian landscape: a strip of land, tight between the sea and mountains. And this landscape makes Liguria an olive growing region that is second to none: sloping plots, peppering the hillsides, in terraces surrounded by stonewalls.
The history of olive growing in Liguria is just like in the rest of Italy: the best production is that of the Benedictine monks. Taggia Abbey, the place from which the typical Taggiasca is imported from the San Colombano monks from Provenza, is of special interest. A region with 27,000 hectares of olive groves spread over tens of thousands of farms. In fact, the olive growing sector is a weak point for regional economic development because of the costs to maintain this type of situation.


The largest production areas are the coastal slopes, particularly in the province of Imperia, followed by Genoa, Savona and La Spezia. The varieties cultivated are suitable to the land, even if Razzola a Levante and Taggiasca a Ponente are predominant. There is a DOP Riviera Ligure Extra Virgin Olive Oil that has 3 additional geographic labels: Riviera dei Fiori (with at least 90% Taggiasca), Riviera del Ponente Savonese (with at least 50% Taggiasca) and  Riveria di Levante (produced with at least 55% Lavagnina, Razzola, Pignola and Frantoio).


A feature that is often confused with the sour flavor of oils but that is of fundamental importance in classifying them is their acidity. Consumers often judge this incorrectly. It’s important to underline that no expert can ever – during a tasting – determine the acidity of an oil. Extra virgin olive oil made from healthy olives will generally have a very low acidity level.
Despite the word on the street, Ligurian oil is not only sweet. Many oils have an intense vegetable smell with hints of tomato and a spicy, almond flavour. For a distinct flavor, I’d use an oil like this in pairings with the most typical  dishes from Liguria, like pesto or brandacujùn, a dish made from potatoes and cod.

Fausto Borella

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