An ancestral relationship

It is not known for certain when olive oil began to be produced in the Alentejo, but it is an ancestral tradition in the Mediterranean countries. It was the Phoenicians and mainly the Romans who introduced improvements to planting, grafting and olive oil extraction. Writings by the Roman historian, Strabo, refer to Alentejo Olive Oil as a product of excellent quality, imported by Rome 2000 years ago.

The use of olive oil as a food, means of lighting or a reference product for medicinal and hygiene practices is very old. Just like today, olive oil was one of the most commonly used fats, replacing cow’s milk butter, which was scarcely used in cooking. In the Alentejo, there is an ancient tradition for eating olives in bread, after being seasoned with salt and oregano. Olive oil was also used as a means of paying taxes and rent.

Currently, Portugal is the seventh largest olive oil producer in the world and the fourth biggest exporter. In 2016, international olive oil sales amounted to 434 million euros and Brazil, Angola, Spain and Italy were the main destination markets. Olive oil is the Portuguese product with the highest exports to Brazil.

It is in the Alentejo, a region in the south of Portugal, where more than 70% of domestic olive oil is produced. In the 2015/2016 marketing year, for example, the country produced 89.3 thousand tonnes of olive oil and 68 thousand was produced in the Alentejo. Over the last 15 years, the Alentejo region gained 50 thousand new hectares of olive groves, thereby contributing to a growth in the domestic olive oil production.

The varietals that provide flavour

Between the months of October and February, Alentejo Olive Oil is extracted from the olive (fruit of the olive tree) at its ideal stage of maturity to obtain fruity, mellow olive oils, solely by mechanical processes.

The region’s four main traditional varieties are Galega, Cordovil de Serpa, Verdeal Alentejana and Cobrançosa.

Galega This is the most widespread variety in Portugal, representing around 80% of the national olive grove area. As a medium-sized tree, it yields small, oval-shaped fruit, which is highly resistant to detachment. The olive oil from this variety, when grown in the Alentejo region, has varied sensations. When picked unripe, it has a green apple fruitiness, with bitter and pungent hints; when picked ripe, it has an almond and nutty fruitiness, with a considerable sweet sensation, without any trace of bitter or pungent notes. It is considered to be an extremely stable olive oil.
Cobrançosa When it is produced in the Alentejo, Cobrançosa Olive Oil (variety originating from Trás-os-Montes) is usually an olive oil with considerably bitter and pungent tones, with marked notes of green grass, combined with subtle sweet notes. It is a medium-low olive tree, yielding average-sized fruit, which easily detach, although it is rare for it to naturally fall.
Cordovil de Serpa The Olive Oil extracted from Cordovil olives is usually bitter and pungent, with strong hints of green leaves. It is admired for its high oleic acid content. The trees of the Cordovil de Serpa variety are usually medium-low in size with large fruit. Although it is a rustic variety, it does have some sensitivity to cold and drought.
Verdeal Alentejana The trees of the Verdeal variety are of medium size and have large fruit. This a variety that is highly adaptable, namely to the cold or droughts, although it has a weak rooting ability. It usually produces low, alternating yields, and is late coming into production as are its fruit in maturing; these remain green until the end of the marketing year, giving the name to this variety. The Olive oil extracted from this variety is characterised by its considerable green, bitter, pungent sensations.

The Olive Grove where it all happens

In the Alentejo landscape the olive tree plays a prominent role. Three different olive grove management systems can be seen:

Traditional Olive Grove

This is the traditional system, used for many centuries and which still represents the majority of the olive grove area in Portugal. The trees are planted in wide rows - with 60 to 200 trees per hectare - and can be kept with or without irrigation. They may take between 15 and 20 years to come into production and there are productive olive groves that are more than a century old.

Intensive Olive Grove

Trees planted in narrow rows - 285 to 415 trees per hectare - cultivated with irrigation. It usually comes into production five to seven years after being set up and can produce for several decades.

Highly Intensive Olive Grove

Trees planted as a hedge, normally with a density of between 900 and 1200 trees per hectare. The operation uses irrigation and it comes into production two to three years after being set up. The oldest olive groves known where this system is used are about twenty years old.

Alentejo Olive Oil: A sensory experience

Unripe or ripe? Very pungent or only slightly? Alentejo Olive Oil is a unique product whose birthplace is in the largest productive region in Portugal.

Its main organoleptic characteristics are its fruity aroma, subtle or even absent bitter and pungent sensations with predominating apple, nuts, tomato, grass or leaf notes.

How to taste and savour it

The best way of becoming familiar with the flavours of Alentejo Olive Oil is by tasting it. At a technical tasting a dark blue glass is used, with a glass lid. The idea is not to see the colour of the olive oil so that it does not influence the taster’s perception.


Place around 15 ml of olive oil into the glass and immediately cover it with the glass lid, as a large proportion of the sensations that the olive oil transmits to us comes from its volatile compounds. By covering the glass, we prevent them from being lost.


The olive oil should be tasted at a temperature of 28º - the ideal temperature for maximising the sensations it has to offer. Heat the olive oil by holding the base of the glass with your hand.


Using gentle, circular movements, swill the olive oil in the glass so that it releases its volatile compounds.


Remove the glass lid and smell it slowly and gently. Inhale just two or three times, so as not to overload your sense of smell. Replace the lid.


Wait a few seconds and taste. Firstly, identify the faults - the most common being a rancid, fusty winey or musty taste. The first is caused by the olive oil oxidizing and the others come from fermentations. Then, the aromas, flavours and predominant notes.

Between different olive oils, clean the palate by drinking water and eating a small slice of apple.

The best time to do a tasting is at the end of the morning, which is the time when our senses are the most heightened. Avoid smoking or drinking coffee prior to the tasting. Also avoid the presence of strong smells or perfumes.

How to choose and store it

Virgin Olive Oil – a 100% natural product, obtained without using any chemical process – can be classified in two categories:

Extra Virgin Olive Oil This is a high category olive oil, obtained directly from healthy olives, solely by mechanical means. It is the grandest category, attributed only to impeccable, fruity olive oils without any sensory fault. It provides a touch of excellence to both raw food and cooked dishes.
Virgin Olive Oil This is an olive oil obtained directly from healthy olives, solely by mechanical means. It is a natural, healthy product, this category being attributed to quality olives, free from any serious sensory faults. It is ideal for cooking.

Olive oil is a dynamic product and cannot be kept in the bottle for very long. Light and heat are two factors which accelerate its oxidation, as well as air. So, once opened, it is recommended that the bottle of olive oil be kept in a dark, cool, dry place so that it can remain in optimal conditions for more than a year.

Cooking & Pairing

We’re crossing the best Alentejo olive oils with the talent of different chefs. Get ready for an amazing gastronomic experience.