The Stuff of Life: Naturvie Spanish Olive Oil

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This oil comes from the western part of Spain (the land of Ibérico ham if you're into great pork), from a family-owned farm just a bit south of the beautiful walled town of Merida. The farm is run by Fernando Sanchez-Mohino. He made his career success as an attorney, but decided later in life to pursue his passion, to take on the production of olive oil. The family has run the farm for three generations now, and he's spent years working on improving the oil. They're doing a very nice job of mindful, sustainable farming with a bit of an eye towards biodynamics. As I suppose is fitting, the oil's following around here is growing organically as well (I'd like to tell you sales of it go up when the moon is full, but methinks that would be a bit too much of a poetic fiction).

The oil is from the Cornezuela varietal, an interesting old-school olive that's unique to that area. All the olives for this oil are taken from trees planted no later than the year 1800. You read that right—all the trees are over 200 years old. This isn't just a romantic marketing tale: old trees of this sort have very low yields, but produce oils with very complex flavors. The olives are handpicked and then delivered to the press in under three hours. The complexity of the oil's flavor reflects not only the age of the trees but also the care taken in handling and the quickness of the press.

The flavor of the Naturvie oil is a blend of sweet and spicy, almond and olive . . . really a very nice oil and one that's little-known here in the U.S. It's not the boldest oil of our bunch; if you want to get a big dose of big (which I like a lot by the way), off the top of my head, I'd go with La Spineta from Puglia, Pasolivo from Central California, or the Canena from southern Spain. By contrast the Naturvie Cornezuela oil is ... a bit more careful, not controlled but not out of control either. More like an elder statesman of the jazz world who's spent a lifetime figuring out how to pack more complexity into a coda, keeping it all in a tight space, but moving marvelously around it with a lot of subtle but significant, edgy, and very interesting energy. If you want to become meaningful friends with a new olive oil, one that you're likely to like even more the more time you spend with it, make a note to taste the Naturvie.

Image credit: Naturvie



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Ari Weinzweig is co-founder of Zingerman's Community of Businesses, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is also the author of Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating. More

After graduating from University of Michigan with a degree in Russian history, Ari Weinzweig went to work washing dishes in a local restaurant and soon discovered that he loved the food business. Along with his partner Paul Saginaw, Ari started Zingerman's Delicatessen in 1982 with a $20,000 bank loan, a staff of two, a small selection of great-tasting specialty foods, and a relatively short sandwich menu. Today, Zingerman's is a community of businesses that employs over 500 people and includes a bakery, creamery, sit-down restaurant, training company, coffee roaster, and mail order service. Ari is the author of the best-selling Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating and the forthcoming Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon.

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