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A few weeks ago I received an invitation of CEPAAL to visit various producers and learn about Portuguese olive oil. Reading the mail made me think „I really want to see how it is done“ and on the other hand „wait a minute, do I actually know of any good Portuguese olive oils?“ In the end I just gave it a go and came back pretty impressed and as a fan of these liquids. CEPAAL means centre for the study and promotion of olive oil from Alentejo. It is a non-profit association simply to grow awareness that they are actually a big olive oil producing nation.
In fact Alentejo olive oil is as good as Italian or Greek products, the thing is, nobody seems to know. I think that might be just a reflection of today’s overwhelming variety of every kind of product. The region of Alentejo has different ways of farming and growing methods, just like the personalities who stand behind each bottle. There is no right or wrong for me on how the trees grow and the oil is eventually sourced but from a personal point of view on how I imagine our future, it clearly pulls me towards one direction.
One very good thing first, all the 22 producers of CEPAAL work in organic farming which I very much appreciate but there are of course differences in size, growing or production matters. I was very lucky to be able to get an impression from small to medium and big producers. All of them had something going and had awesome oil but in the end I believe it is my guts that decide in terms of respectful sourcing.
So I made my way to Lisbon on a rainy December afternoon only equipped with my analog camera and a few rolls of film, as I thought a craft deserves to be captured in a certain way and look. After being warmly welcomed, we of course had to have a first taste while getting to know each other. We were led to Cafe Garrett that evening right in the heart of Lisbon to enjoy a fantastic and surprising olive oil pairing dinner. But see for yourself…