In Greek Mythology, the creation of the olive tree was the result of a battle between the Goddess of of Wisdom and the God of the Sea. In this competition to give their followers the most prized and useful gift, the olive tree was the winner and is revered as a ‘liquid gold’ to this day in Greece. Around the world, olive trees symbolize peace, strength, power and more.
Olive oil production is often associated with Greece, Spain, or Italy. Although Croatia may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of olive oil, it should be one of the first on the list.
The region of Istria, Croatia has been named the best Olive Oil region in the world by the leading international extra virgin olive oil guide Flos Olei for three years in a row since 2015. Out of the 500 best olive oils mentioned, 75 were Istrian, more than any other nation in the world.
The top ranking Istrian olive oil is O.P.G. Eno Zubin in Umag, clocking in with 97 out of a total of 100 points. Zubin is truly an artisan olive oil producer, outputting a modest 48 hectoliters of olive oil per year. Many olive oil producers on the list easily produce several thousand or more of hectoliters per year.
Istrian olive oil has been celebrated as far back as 50 AD and the region is still dotted with aging, yet enduring olive oil mills also known as toklarija, which are quite often transformed into restaurants.
On my visit to Istria, I visited the Meneghetti Stancija, whose oils are frequently featured in Flos Olei. The sky above the sprawling estate is a vibrant shade of blue and the atmosphere is muted green and peppery as if we had just come out of a spring shower, yet it was only October. The walls of the outdoor dining patio are blanketed with interlocking greenery that climbs up and down the exterior.
We were treated to an al fresco lunch and olive oil tasting at the restaurant. Meneghetti prizes its four organic olive oils: Leccino, Bjelica, Rosulja, and Izbor.
Leccino is particular suited to the Istrian climate with a dark green oil that pairs well with light meals. It’s mildly bitter with the slightest hint of spiciness. The Bjelica was chosen as the world’s best oil in Flos Olei for "Olive Oils with Intensely Fruity Aromas" and is a golden green. The olive oil Rosulja. The Rosulja oil features a olive oil varietal that is indigenous to Vodnjan and Rovinj. Finally Meneghetti’s Izbor features the most common varietal in Istria, the Buza and the fruity taste is particularly intense. It’s the most versatile of all the oils, pairing well with any food.
In true Croatian fashion, we pour the olive oil over everything, the breads, the cheeses, the soup, the olive oil dressed delicate turbot fillet, even the dangerously rich, olive oil
The olive oil of Istria tastes unlike any olive oil I’ve ever sampled. It’s grassy and aromatic. These olive oils are celebrated for their healthier, extra virgin qualities and are ultra high in antioxidants and unsaturated fatty acids. The climate, soil and geographical position of Istria are all especially ideal for olive trees. And….. for growing truffles (white and black) and making wine but of course, we are focusing on Olive Oil here. Have I convinced you to go try it yet?