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A Guide to Italy's Olive Cultivars

A Guide to Italy's Olive Cultivars

So you know you love Italian olives and olive oil, but do you know the difference between different olive cultivars?

Olive cultivars, or varieties of olives, play a significant role in determining an olive's color, shape, and flavor. There are literally hundreds of olive cultivars growing throughout the world, with at least 400 known varieties in Italy alone. At Eataly, we have at least 32 olive cultivars on our shelves! A few of our extra virgin olive oils are monocultivars (meaning they are made with just one type of olive), while others are made with a blend of cold-pressed olive varieties.

Knowing which cultivar is used to make an extra virgin olive oil will tell you a lot about the way it will taste, helping you make better decisions when choosing an olive oil. Explore our guide to Italy's olive cultivars below and become an olive expert!

NORTHERN ITALY OLIVE CULTIVARS 

 

TAGGIASCA (Liguria): make up 98% of the Ligurian production; deep purple in color with a buttery, fruity, and delicate flavor and small notes of bitterness

RAZZOLA (Liguria): black olives with an herby, buttery, and delicate taste

PIGNOLA (Liguria): black olives, stronger flavor when grown in colder temperatures; smooth, buttery, and fruity

LAVAGNINA (Liguria): the Lavagnina tree is almost violet in color; very light and delicate in taste with a smooth and buttery finish

CENTRAL ITALY OLIVE CULTIVARS

 

LECCINO (Toscana/Umbria/Lazio): Delicate, captivating flavor that boasts of freshly cut grass, almond, and lightly spicy ending

PENDOLINO (Lazio/Toscana): A very rare cultivar with an herbal aroma, and notes of almonds, as well as spicy ending

MORAIOLO (Umbria/Toscana): Rich in polyphenols, which contribute to its bitterness and spiciness; strong herbaceous flavor with notes of green almond, artichoke, and tomatoes, and an intense, fruity, and floral aroma

FRANTOIO (Tuscany/Umbria/Lazio): Boasts intense notes intense artichoke leaf, freshly cut grass, green almonds with a lovely bitter harmony and a peppery persistent aftertaste

OLIVASTRA SEGGIANESE (Toscana): Delicate flavor with an aroma of fresh olive fruit aroma; creamy texture with a buttery and nutty taste, as well as a hint of pepper

GENTILE DI CHIETI (Abruzzo): Harmonic, delicate, elegant, and herbaceous with an aroma of fresh cut grass and green almonds and a spicy finish

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SOUTHERN ITALY OLIVE CULTIVARS

 

ORTICE (Campania): one of the oldest olive trees in Italy dating back to 539 B.C.; spicy and slightly bitter with elegant and well-balanced tones of fresh tomatoes and vegetables

RECIOPPELLA (Campania): also one of the oldest olive trees in Italy; very aromatic, spicy, and bitter with notes of fresh herbs like basil, mint and sage

ORTOLANA (Campania): an ancient cultivar with elegant, soft, with pleasant, fruity sensations and a spicy flavor

MINUCCIOLA (Campania): Bright aromatic bouquet with notes of apple and wildflowers; well-balanced in flavor with bitter and spicy notes

CORATINA (Puglia): one of the most famous cultivars to add into olive oil blends in order to give an oil more character; elegant and spicy with a little bitterness

PERANZANA (Puglia): boasts of freshly cut grass with a sweet, fruity flavor resembling artichoke and a spicy persistency

OTTOBRATICO (Calabria): Well-balanced and herbaceous with tones of artichoke, wild thistle, sour apple, sweet almond and a notable spicy finish

BOSANA (Sardegna): fruity with notes of white fruit, bananas, apples; a delicate olive bouquet, capable of satisfying even the most demanding palates

TONDA IBLEA (Sicilia): the most famous Sicilian olive, with a DOP certification (refresh your knowledge of Italian certifications here); fruity with notes of green tomato and fresh herbs; full-bodied and spicy

MORESCA (Sicilia): well-rounded with elegant notes of artichoke, aromatic fresh herbs, fresh greens; spicy at the end

NOCELLARA DELLA VALLE DE BELICE (Sicilia): Vibrant and robust; grassy, herby,  and very spicy

NOCELLATA DELL'ETNA (Sicilia): very fruity at the nose with note of green tomato, green tomato leaf, artichoke, and almond; very spicy at the end with a light bitter sensation.

OGLIAROLA (Puglia, Basilicata, and Campania): deep fruity, grassy undertones with a white fruit (like apple and white peach) taste followed up with a light almond aftertaste; spicy ending.

GIRAFFA (Sicilia): lightly fruity, herbaceous, and green with no spice

BIANCOLILLA (Sicilia): light olive taste and slightly bitter with hints of artichoke and a light spiciness at the end

CERASUOLA (Sicilia): medium fruitiness with bitter and spicy notes of olive, hay, bitterness; very intense

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Not sure which extra virgin olive oil you prefer? When in doubt, give it a taste! Check out our step-by-step guide on How to Taste Olive Oil

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