Brazilian olive oil producers are smiling from ear to ear — the 2022 harvest promises to break all production records and reach close to an unprecedented 290,000 liters, a growth of 20% compared to 2021.
Nature gave a little help in the two main producing regions of the country, Rio Grande do Sul and Serra da Mantiqueira.
According to consultant Paulo Freitas, last winter was drier, with hot days and very cold nights, which made the olives reach the right point of maturation closer to the end of summer, with up to 30 days delay in relation to last year. “With this, the producers were able to concentrate a good part of the harvest outside the rainy season”, he explains.
Other factors contributed. After just over a decade of experience, the pioneers are already dealing with more developed olive trees, producing much more fruit per tree.
At the same time, they are finally beginning to master the secrets of cultivation — working in very particular circumstances of soil and climate, Brazilian olive growers were unable to take advantage of the traditions of other countries and were forced to develop protocols practically from scratch.
“I think that, now, everyone is getting their hands on the right hand when harvesting and in the way of processing the olives”, risks Rafael Marchetti, from the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Prosperato, one of the largest in the country.
Its 250-hectare olive grove, located in Caçapava do Sul (RS), yielded so much olives this year that the harvest took much longer than expected – it started in the first week of February and should only end at the end of April. “We never spent so many days harvesting”, attests to the producer, who estimates that he will reach 500 tons of fruit. Last year, there were 350.
The producers of Serra da Mantiqueira are equally excited. Moacir Carvalho Dias, from Fazenda Irarema, on the border between São Sebastião da Grama (SP) and Poços de Caldas (MG), saw production double compared to last year – the current harvest of 80 tons of fruit, already harvested, yielded 8 thousand liters of extra virgin olive oil.
The number of brands grows every year. Author of “Extrafresco – The olive oil guide of Brazil”, whose new edition hits bookstores in June, Sandro Marques registered 120, 20% more than in 2021.
Among the youngest are Lagar H, from Cachoeira do Sul (RS), and Sabiá, whose olive groves occupy two properties, one in Santo Antônio do Pinhal (SP) and the other in Encruzilhada do Sul (RS).
There are also new producing regions entering the list — this is the case of Davo olive oil, from Ribeirão Branco (SP), which is in the Ribeira Valley, and Aracê, produced in Domingos Martins (ES), whose first harvest has not yet reached commercial scale. .
The southern region, where large properties with flat relief allow for the mechanization of harvesting, continues to be the champion in terms of volume. Of the 240 thousand liters of olive oil produced in Brazil in 2021, 202 thousand came from producers in Rio Grande do Sul.
But Mantiqueira’s production begins to change. Although the steep terrain continues to make mechanization unfeasible, there are more and more olive growers investing heavily in large plantations and high-capacity oil presses.
Owned by the Marinho family, Fazenda Rainha, in São Sebastião da Grama (SP), already has 90 hectares planted. It is there that, since 2020, Orfeu olive oil has been produced, the new arm of the brand that has become famous for coffee — the 2022 harvest, launched on April 5, reached 20,000 liters of olive oil. In its own e-commerce, 350 ml bottles cost between R$189 and R$249.
National labels have done well abroad and won prizes in important international competitions, such as the Italian EVO International Olive Oil Contest, the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, in the United States, and Terraolivo, in Israel. For olive oil sommelière Ana Beloto, they already have their own identity.
“In the international competitions of which I am a judge, always with blind tastings, Brazilian olive oil shows a freshness of aroma and very characteristic sensory notes, such as cabbage from Minas Gerais backyards and tropical fruits, such as passion fruit.”
Monovarietal labels gained special prominence in the 2022 harvest — with more developed orchards, producers are already able to harvest larger volumes of each olive variety and process them separately, which allows consumers to identify the characteristics of each one. It’s like buying a wine for your favorite grape.
More delicate, arbequina is considered the gateway to national oils. At the other end, varieties such as picual yield potent oils, with greater bitterness and spiciness.
Even the mildest blends, however, deliver a freshness that is not usually perceived in imported oils. The reason lies in the speed with which the unripe fruits are harvested, processed, packaged and offered for sale.
Irarema has just launched a new label, Azeite 2H, which was born from a challenge between Dias and his father. “I stopped the farm to facilitate the logistics. Between harvest and bottling, it only took two hours”, celebrates the producer, who limited the lot to 800 units. Packed in a 750 ml porcelain bottle, it sells for R$ 179.90 in the brand’s online store.
The still reduced production does not allow national oils to reach most retail chains, but there are exceptions. The gaucho Batalha can be found at Pão de Açúcar at R$ 59.99 (500 ml). The St Marche chain and the luxury emporium Casa Santa Luzia reserve even more space for Brazilian labels – one of the first to arrive at St Marche this year, Borriello, by Mantiqueira, costs R$129.90 (500 ml).
The high price is still an issue. The fault, claim the producers, is the lack of scale, since no Brazilian olive grower comes close to the volume that the big imported brands produce. Not even this year’s harvest record should change the scenario – due to the increase in inputs, new oils are reaching the market, on average, 20% more expensive than those of the previous harvest.
“Bottles have increased by 60%, caps have doubled in price and the urea we use as a fertilizer has increased by 500%”, complains Moacir Carvalho Dias, from Fazenda Irarema, who charges R$ 54.90 for the 250 ml bottle of the Intenso or Suave blends. .
São Paulo restaurants have been important means of publicizing Brazilian olive oils. Carla Retuci, producer of Borriello, from Andradas (MG), sells up to 70% of production to them. For this market, Retuci created 5-liter bag-in-box packages and special bottles to be taken to the table.
“I also offer training to kitchen and salon teams, because most of them have no idea how olive oil is produced. Restaurants are very important to us, because people taste it and then ask where they can buy it”, says the producer.
Another way to conquer new consumers is olive tourism. Located in São Bento do Sapucaí (SP), Oliq promotes guided tours with tastings every hour and already has a restaurant. In a month of vacation, with July, the property receives 1,000 visitors, who pay R$ 39 for the experience.
Irarema, which also maintains a restaurant and gates always open, receives more than 1,400 people on a single long holiday. Visitors, according to Dias, buy half of the production of each harvest.
“This tourism business is the best thing in the world, which sustains us”, he admits.
For publicist Bob Vieira da Costa, owner of Sabiá, the culture of extra virgin olive oil is recent even for Europeans and opening the farm gates to tourists shortens the distance between the public and the producer. “In the tastings we promote, we offer our own olive oils and, in the middle, we put one on an industrial scale. Everyone is surprised and ends up becoming loyal customers.”
Those who don’t want to visit the producers can already find the first bottles of olive oil from the 2022 harvest on the brands’ websites. It’s time for special products like the novello olive oil from Ouro de Sant’Ana (R$ 60, 250 ml). Extracted from very green olives and packaged without being filtered, it has concentrated aromas and flavors —but the edition is limited and has a short shelf life of just four months.
Even when the entire 2022 crop is on sale, it’s best not to wait too long. As national production is small, it usually runs out between August and September. Then only next year.
Know how to choose
- More important than the degree of acidity, which should be a maximum of 0.8% in extra virgin wines, is checking the bottling date. Olive oils should be consumed fresh — over time, they oxidize and lose their aromas.
- The arbequina varietal is the mildest, while the arbosana and francoio varietals are medium bodied and the koroneiki, grappolo, galega and picual olives tend to be more intense.
- The more intense, the more bitter and spicier the oil — but the spiciness isn’t about adding pepper, it’s about the crunchy feeling it leaves in your throat.
- Some of the best-known imported brands have lower prices because they bottle oils from different producers without much discretion, in order to reduce costs. High quality extra virgin olive oil is expensive everywhere.
Borriello – olivaborriello.com.br
Davo – hotelevinicoladavo.com.br
Lagar H – lagarh.com
Orfeu – loja.cafeorfeu.com.br
Ouro de Sant’Ana – loja.ourodesantana.com.br
Prosperato – emporio.prosperato.com.br
Irarema – fazendairarema.com.br
olive – oliq.com.br
You knew – olivasabia.com.br
“Olive oil – Stories, curiosities, recipes”, by Ana Beloto (independent edition), 290 pages, R$ 129.90
I am currently a news writer for News Bulletin247 where I mostly cover sports news. I have always been interested in writing and it is something I am very passionate about. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and spending time with my family and friends.