Italian Olive Oils
The use of olive oil in the United States nearly
doubled from 1989 to 1999; sales of extra-virgin olive
oil have increased 51 percent since 1995. Part of the
reason is the oil’s high level of unsaturated fats, which
are believed to reduce cholesterol levels. (A tablespoon Italian Wines
of olive oil contains only 2 grams of saturated fat and It comes as a surprise to many people to learn that
no cholesterol, whereas a tablespoon of butter contains Italy is responsible for one quarter of all the wine
8 grams of saturated fat.) produced in the world. Let’s take a look at a few regions
Extra-virgin olive oil, the highest grade made, has and the wines they produce.
harmonious fruity flavors and aromas, vivid green Situated in Tuscany, Chianti has been waving the
color and density. Its flavor is at its peak in the first two Italian flag in the United States for decades, although its
months after pressing, although it will keep well for identity has changed considerably over the years. Today’s
a year. Store in a cool, dark place, but not in the refrig- high-quality Chianti most likely will come from two dis-erator. If the oil gets chilled and becomes cloudy or tinct areas within the region: Chianti Classico (a hilly area
solidified, bringing it to room temperature will restore south of Florence) and Chianti Rufina (the smallest and
it to its natural state. coolest area in the region).
Costco’s Kirkland Signature limited-quantity, extra- In the northwest of the country is the Piedmont
virgin olive oil is made exclusively from Italian Tuscan region. Here we find Barolo and Barbaresco, two of
olives that are harvested by hand and cold-pressed within Italy’s greatest wines.
24 hours of picking under the watchful eyes of the To the south, in Puglia (the heel of Italy’s boot), the
Consorzio del Olio Toscano (Independent Association less well-known Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera grapes
of Tuscan Olive Oil Producers). It is so valued by local are showcased, and from Molise comes the soft, juicy
harvesters of the Consorzio that many take bottles of Sangiovese. In Umbria, northeast of Rome, there is
this “liquid gold” home in lieu of payment. Merlot being made that would put to shame some domes-The oil is magnificent drizzled over soups, tossed in tic offerings at twice the price.
pastas, or placed in a dish to be used for dipping with Italy’s white wines also have benefited greatly from
dense, crusty breads. improvements in the vineyard and the cellar. In the northeast, from Trentino and Veneto, look for light, delicate
Pinot Grigio, with its lovely floral, almond scent, to
quench your thirst. A good Soave Classico makes a wonderful alternative to Chardonnay. Veneto also is home to
Valpolicella Classico and one of Italy’s trademark wines,
Amarone della Valpolicella.