Experience Jaén, from its Renaissance cities to its natural parks, experiencing some of the world’s best olive oil on the way
With the world’s largest cultivated surface area dedicated to over 220 million olive trees, Spain is surely the undisputed king of olive oil production.
Yet, like most things in life, it is not always quantity that matters, but quality. Historically Spain has failed to capitalise on its liquid gold assets, and instead exported unsold olives to other European countries that in turn pressed them, and packaged the high quality oil in designer bottles and marketing it as their own.
Spain’s olive oil producers are now determined to show the world that its gourmet, cold pressed extra virgin oils are the best in the world. Over recent years the industry has been behind a series of gourmet food festivals across Europe and North America, showcasing Andalucía’s finest oils. In addition, Spain’s olive oils are increasingly packaged and marketed for a discerning national and international market.
To get a real flavour of Andalucía’s distinctive olive oil, there is no substitute to coming to Jaén province. It’s easy to create your very own olive oil trail, through charming towns and villages surrounded by those ubiquitous olive groves. Local tourist offices provide free maps and routes detailing places of interest to help you on your way.
No visit to Jaén province should ignore the outstanding UNESCO World Heritage towns of Baeza & Ubeda. Both towns are full of Renaissance and Baroque palaces and churches; they offer interesting places to stay, either in a Parador or small boutique hotel.
Amongst the towns’ narrow streets you’ll find bars and restaurants which are great places to enjoy local oil used in traditional and modern recipes.
In fact, when it comes to cuisine, enjoying olive oil can start with breakfast. A typical Andalusian meal of toast, tomato and cold pressed virgin olive oil, may include a choice of at least a dozen bottles of gourmet oils!
After visiting a few local olive mills and enjoying some tastings, it soon becomes apparent just how seriously olive oil is taken here.
Like Spanish wine, the oil has its own accreditation system that confirms the authenticity of regional products. In Andalucia a genuine olive oil will have a D.O. (Denomination of Origin) stating each oil’s accredited region.
A visit to the ‘Museum of Olive Oil’, in the tiny village of Puente del Obispo, continues this journey of olive oil enlightenment. Housed in a classic Hacienda, the museum tells a compelling story of the history of olive oil production in Andalucia and its intrinsic role in the culture, cuisine and economy of the region.
In addition to its beautiful Renaissance cities, Jaén province is also home to one of Europe’s most extraordinary wild spaces, the mountainous natural park of Cazorla, Segura and Las Villas. This is one of Europe’s largest natural spaces, and Cazorla is famous for it stunning scenery and game. (Follow the previous links to other blog entries on this amazing park).
This is the perfect place to walk off some of those tapas, and olive oil tastings with a hike in the mountains of this stunning natural park. Both the Guadalquivir and Segura rivers run through this wild place, fed by a myriad of canyons and dramatic waterfalls that punctuate the breathtaking landscape.
Then possibly reward yourself at the end of an active day with a spa treatment. Local hotels not only offer a range of menus based on local ingredients and olive oils, but also spa treatments including olive oil massages, baths and body wraps. Not a bad way to end a journey of olive oil discovery!
(for a related blog post on a typical olive harvest in Andalucia click here)
ArtJaén is running now till Monday 11 March.
Expolivo, the olive oil industry’s annual expo is May 8 – 11 in Jaén.
Tel: 953 350 178
Tel: 958 27 26 00
Museum of Olive Oil, Baeza
Tel: 953 750 345
Puerta de la Luna, Baeza
Tel: 953 747 019
Tel: 953 727 075
Tel: 953 72 00 15
Tapas Bars & Restaurants:
Antique Taperia & Restaurante, Ubeda
Tel: 953 757 618
Paquito Diaz Restaurante, Baeza
Tel: 953 742 886
Oleocata Xauen, Jaen
Tel: 953 296 032
La Casa del Aceite, Ubeda
Tel: 953 748 081