There is a close parallel between high quality olive oil production and marketing in California with premium wine production and marketing. Both are condiment products with various levels of quality and complex relationships with other foods and traditions. One of the main differences is that the premium sector of the olive oil industry is just getting started and the premium portion of the wine industry has been advancing for about a half century. In 2010-11 California will produce about 4 million liters of extra virgin olive oil, which represents only about 2% of USA’s consumptive demand. Much of it is of a very high quality and some is being sold as “super-premium” olive oil. These oils are being made with specific single varietals, or blends of varieties, as different styles (delicate, medium, or robust), and for various uses as condiments to enhance the flavors of many food types. It is anticipated that as production increases consumers, chefs, and marketers will learn about and accept the premium sector of the olive oil industry and pay premium prices for superior brands, much like they do now for premium California wines.
Lebanon has an historic olive oil industry that goes back thousands of years and with it the cultivation and production of some very interesting varieties. Many believe that this part of the Middle-East is where today’s cultivated olive species originated. Lebanon also has an ancient wine production industry that has recently (within the last 15 years) begun to produce some super premium wines that are gaining recognition around the world. Most of Lebanon’s oils are consumed within Lebanon and very little is currently being exported to Europe and the USA, so very little is known about it. The Lebanese olive oil industry has the same potential to produce very high quality olive oils from unique local varieties and gain world renowned status for a superior product, just like their wine industry. As international recognition is gained for Lebanese oils, there will also likely develop an interest in growing Lebanese varieties all over the world. The production, processing, and promotion of premium Lebanese olive oils and varieties will help sustain the Lebanese small-scale olive oil producers and maintain the agricultural diversity of the region.
The two primary objectives of this project are to:
Project Assessment in November of 2010:
The following was witnessed during a Nov. 9-13 visit to Lebanon:
Summary from report:
Summary from report:
Summary of Accomplishments to date
Introducing Lebanese Olive Varieties into the USA: To date, 55 olive trees in Douma and Kfour have been selected and properly identified; 40 of those trees are under study by morphological characteristics that will be completed in September 2011 and by DNA testing, which will be completed in the spring of 2011. Oil has been made from those specific blocks of trees taking care not to mix varieties and to make the oil in a manner that extracts the essence of the flavor of each variety; a complete profile of this oil is currently being evaluated; the results should be available in January 2011. About 10,000 cuttings from the selected 40 mother trees are being clonally propagated in Lebanon for shipment to California in the spring of 2011. It is important to note that this is the first time a tree from Lebanon has entered the USA under the current and strict USDA laws & regulations.
Opening US Markets to Lebanese Oils: Several manufacturers and growers have listened to the recommendations of the US experts; some, like Mr. Maurice Andary of Kfour have agreed to follow specific protocols to produce excellent quality olive oils. Arcenciel has agreed to provide the quality control and Olive Grove Partners has decided to only buy olive oil that has arcenciel’s quality seal of approval. We all look forward to the continued collaboration and common agreement to achieve our mission and objectives.
It will not be long before the recognition of high quality olive oils in Lebanon equals the recognition received for its fabulous wines, which is a close parallel to what is now occurring in the California wine and olive oil industries. In collaboration with the best in the business in Lebanon and the USA, our aim is to establish credible & objective reports, provide professional & accurate R&D, help manufacture excellent products and win gold medals. Olive Grove Partners’ desire is to work with active professionals in the California olive oil and wine industries and to follow in the footsteps of those industries to achieve similar success.