As of the end of 2020 il circolo is allowed to use the D.O.P. label for its extra virgin olive oil. We are proud of this. We would like to explain why this label is so important for us and what it means for you as a consumer. But first, what does D.O.P. mean? It stands for ‘Denominazione di Origine Protetta’, or Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). It is a European quality mark that is only awarded to products that are produced, processed and prepared in a certain area according to a recognised and controlled method. More and more people are recognising the D.O.P. label and see it as an indicator of the authenticity and good quality of the product. It gives a product a certain prestige, but there are also other indicators and characteristics to look out for when looking for good olive oil.
What does the D.O.P. label say about the quality of a product?
The D.O.P. label is part of the EU’s quality policy, which aims to protect the names of specific products while promoting their unique characteristics linked to their geographical origin and traditional know-how. Products carrying the D.O.P. label are:
- legally protected from imitation and abuse, and
- easily recognisable by consumers by means of the D.O.P. logo.
- It becomes more difficult to mislead the consumer;
- It reinforces confidence in the quality of the product, and
- Producers can market their product better.
By now, more than 1,500 products have been registered D.O.P., mainly in France and Italy, for products like olives, cheese, beer, or even regional bread, fruit and vegetables.
How about P.G.I. and T.S.G.?
In addition to D.O.P., there are two other Protected Geographical Indication labels that can be used to denote the authenticity of a product, protecting in particular the producers of the region and preventing others from simply taking advantage of the name and fame built up by a particular local product.
- I.G.P. is an abbreviation for Indicazione Geografica Protetta, or Protected Geographical Indication (P.G.I.) in English. This can be seen as a ‘light’ version of the D.O.P. and is given to products of which at least one of the production, processing or preparation steps takes place in the specific area.
- T.S.G. stands for Traditional Speciality Guaranteed and focuses on traditional aspects, such as the way in which the product is made or assembled. There is no connection with a specific geographical area here. The T.S.G. also offers protection against imitation and abuse.
|Italian term||English term||Conditions||Examples|
Denominazione di Origine Protetta
Protected Designation of Origin
|For products that are produced, processed and prepared in a specified area in accordance with recognised and controlled methods||-Parma ham may only be called such if it also comes from the Parma region and is prepared in a certain way.|
Indicazione Geografica Protetta
Protected Geographical Indication
|For products where at least one of the steps of production, processing or preparation takes place in a defined area||-Schwarzwalder Schinken, ham produced exclusively in the Black Forest, Germany using a traditional manufacturing process.|
Specialità Tradizionale Garantita
Traditional Speciality Guaranteed
|Emphasises traditional aspects, such as the way the product is made or assembled. There is no relation to a specific geographical area.||-Holländischer Matjes for herring that has been gutted or decapitated in the traditional Dutch way and then pickled or dry salted. The herring is matured in a natural, enzymatic way before it can be consumed.|
What does all this mean for il circolo olive oil?
The D.O.P. mark ensures that il circolo olive oil comes from the Monte Iblei – Val Tellaro region and consists of at least 70% of Moresca olive variety. Characteristically, it is green in colour and has a mild fruity aroma, with light hints of hay and a slightly piquant fruity flavour. D.O.P. therefore has the strictest admission requirements. We see the D.O.P. certification as more than a seal of approval. It is a recognition of the area, its history and traditions, and it shows appreciation for the local farmers and oil-makers and the know-how they cultivate. In short, it shows how il circolo is linked to this region of Sicily.
What about the organic label and the quality of a product?
Apart from verifying whether something has been produced traditionally, you can also measure a product against the yardstick of the EU organic farming label. This label is about the way in which an (agricultural) product has been cultivated. It offers consumers a guarantee that agricultural products are organic and that farmers have worked in a certain way. More specifically, this means that no artificial fertilisers or pesticides have been used. And in the case of olives, that they have been processed in a completely mechanical way and that you will never find any chemical residues in them. In addition, the entire production process – from growing olives to bottling the olive oil – is under their own control and the origin of each litre of olive oil can be traced.
Two hints towards a good quality olive oil
The D.O.P. mark tells you where the olive oil comes from. The organic farming label tells you how the olives were grown and that the production process was monitored. The label will also tell you how the olive oil was made. From the moment the olive is picked until the olive oil is bottled, many things can still go wrong which will affect the quality. For example, for a good olive oil, the olives must be pressed within 24 hours – but preferably as soon as possible – at a temperature below 27 degrees Celsius to prevent any change in taste.
- The acidity of the olive oil is literally a good indicator of its quality. The rule here is: the lower the better. Extra virgin olive oil, which is of the highest quality, has an acidity level of <0.08.
- The amount of polyphenols is also a good indicator of the quality. You can read the antioxidant effect from this. This makes the oil last longer and it is said that it promotes health. It is a good sign if you tend to clear your throat or cough after tasting olive oil. This indicates that there are many antioxidants, that the harvest was early and mechanical and that the olives are good.
You will find this information on the label and otherwise you can ask for the olive oil report. A good olive oil producer pays a lot of attention to this and will appreciate it if you are interested.
There is no accounting for taste
By now you have gained a more complete picture of the quality of the entire production. But let’s not forget the most important thing: the product itself. In the end, it is also about whether you like a certain olive oil. While there is no accounting for taste, there are certainly a few things to be said about it.
- For olive oil, three official terms are used for flavour: fruity, bitter and pungent. When these three are well balanced, the olive oil will be of a higher quality. The fruitier, sharper and more bitter, the more intense the olive oil.
- It also makes a difference whether the olive oil is made from olives harvested early or late. Olive oil from an early harvest has a high degree of bitterness and sharpness. The olive oil will have a robust character, with an intense fruity flavour that remains present for a long time. Olive oil from olives harvested late, on the other hand, is less bitter and sharp, softer and more delicate in flavour.
As with wine, your taste for olive oil develops when tasting more different olive oils. Beginners tend to prefer the smoother and more delicate taste of late harvested olive oil. To appreciate the robust and bitter taste of a real quality olive oil might take some time and experience. All in all, which olive oil you like remains a matter of personal taste.