What Are Tuscan Olive Varieties?

Tuscan extra virgin olive oil is probably the most famous in the world. There is evidence to suggest that olive trees were cultivated there as early as 4000 BC. Tuscan olive oil tends to taste more peppery, pungent, and green than other olive oils due to its relatively high polyphenol level. To harvest in advance of winter freezes, Tuscan farmers pick their crops earlier than farmers from other regions in Italy, when the fruit is still a mix of green and purple. This practice of early harvest yields a more pungent extra virgin oil. At McEvoy Ranch, our harvest generally spans mid-November to mid-December to create an oil with this classic Tuscan flavor profile. The ranch orchards consist of Frantoio, Leccino, Moraiolo, Pendolino, Maurino, Leccio del Corno and Coratina trees. The Frantoio and Leccino are the two most predominant varieties in Tuscan olive oil. Frantoio tends to taste fruity, with a more more aggressive aftertaste than Leccino. Frantoio is self pollinating but Leccino is not, requiring the planting of a pollinator such as Pendolino nearby in order for it to bear fruit. Maurino is another varietal with a mild flavor, also requiring pollinator varieties to fruit. While Frantoio and Leccino are the better known varieties, Moraiolo can be credited with giving Tuscan olive oil is distinctive robustness and bitterness. It, more than the other varieties, is primarily responsible for the peppery aftertaste that accounts for Tuscan style oils such as McEvoy Ranch to be known as a “two cough” oil. This oil tends to be high in polyphenols, the anti-oxidants that good quality extra virgin olive oil is known for. Another oil high in polyphenols is Leccio del Corno, a slightly milder cultivar than Moraiolo but with a similarly peppery finish. Finally, the Coratina cultivar is not technically Tuscan, but from Puglia, but its pungent, spicy quality makes it a perfect match to our Tuscan varieties. Some examples ofTuscan oil blends follow. TRADITIONAL BLEND 35% Frantoio 35% Moraiolo 20% Leccino 5% Coratina 5% Pendolino and/or Maurino (for pollination) SLIGHTLY MORE PEPPERY BLEND 40% Frantoio 40% Moraiolo 10% Coratina 5% Leccino 5% Pendolino and/or Maurino (for pollination) SLIGHTLY MILDER BLEND 20% Frantoio 20% Moraiolo 50% Leccino 10% Pendolino and/or Maurino (for pollination)