- Its distinguishing organoleptic characteristics are its excellent fruity flavour and aroma, slight if any bitterness and just a hint of a pungent aftertaste. Its flavour, therefore, is fruity and mild.
- A golden yellow when the fruit is ripe, sometimes with greenish shades if the oil has been obtained from olives harvested before, or in the process of, turning colour.
- The physical and chemical characteristics indicate that this is a dense oil with a specific fatty acid profile: it is clearly characterised by high ratios of unsaturates/ saturates and oleic/linoleic acids, with the content in oleic acid usually above 75 %. It is also distinguished by its high resistance to rancidity.
A region of sierras in the northern part of the province of Cáceres, in the Autonomous Community of Extremadura, western Spain. Natural areas of Sierra de Gata, Hurdes, Gabriel y Galán, Valle del Ambroz, Jerte and La Vera. A total of 84 municipalities are included, covering an area of 449 430 ha, with olive groves accounting for 30,329 ha.
Method of production
Olive groves throughout the region are typically or traditionally planted to a high or very high density, usually exceeding 250 trees per hectare, this being a distinguishing feature from other olivegrowing regions.
In areas with steeper slopes, terracing is traditionally practised, giving rise to problems of mechanisation.
The traditional propagation method has consisted in using hardwood cuttings from the aerial part taken from young branches remaining after pruning. In parallel with the traditional system, one is now seeing the first orchards with plant material deriving from semi-hardwood cuttings rooted under mist propagation.
A feature of olive tree cultivation in the protected area is that it is based on slowly evolving techniques.
Another feature is the wide acceptance of organic production methods. On modern holdings, cross-ploughing with a tractor and cultivator takes place once to three times a year, normally in the spring and at the beginning of the summer.
Fertilisation is done by spreading complex fertilisers on the soil.
As to pruning, there has been a development from totally free-form shapes towards low trees adapted to the harvesting of table olives by hand.
The olives must be picked directly from the tree at the time of year determined by persons with technical knowledge of the Designation.
The olives shall come from the groves listed in the Regulatory Council's register of olive-growing holdings. Olives picked directly from the tree are required to be separated from those taken from the ground.
On unloading at the oil mill, the quality of the fruit shall be noted, special attention being paid to the state of cleanliness, and the absence of bruising, disease and pests.
The cleaning apparatus must not dirty the olives in any way.
The batches must be clearly identified.
The quality of the product shall be maintained throughout the process, in each of the different systems known.
The oil obtained is stored in duly identified containers, which must satisfy the requirements of hygiene and cleanliness set out in the specification.
Packaging of the oil protected under the DOP Gata-Hurdes must take place in the defined geographical area, as prescribed by the applicant group. This is necessary to safeguard quality and to guarantee traceability and inspection throughout the certification process and until its completion.
The process is complete when a numbered back label guaranteeing the certified product's quality and origin is put on its packaging. The back label is issued by the Regulatory Council, whose responsibilities are defined in its rules of procedure as follows:
- As regards territory, the area of production.
- As regards products, those protected by the Designation, whatever the stage of production, storage, packaging, distribution and marketing.
- As regards people, those in the different registers.
Consequently, packaging must take place in the geographical area, in order for the Inspection Body to ensure traceability and guarantee inspection throughout the process, and to safeguard the quality of the protected product.
Packaging must take place in the defined geographical area in order to safeguard quality. This is because a mountain area is involved with difficult access routes and bulk transportation would involve subjecting the oil to inappropriate environmental conditions, exacerbated by the longer transport time. There is no doubt that this would affect the oil's organoleptic characteristics, thereby altering the distinctive profile defined in the Designation.
Only oils which have been certified by the Regulatory Council may be packaged under the Designation of Origin, in packages which it has approved and which are identified by means of labels and back labels complying with the Council's rules.
The relief of the area defined by the Designation is typical of the sierra, corresponding to the southern slopes of the Central Cordillera, with elevations ranging from 400 to 2,000 metres. Olive trees are cultivated on the lower elevations and up to about 800 m.
The soils have formed over siliceous materials, mainly granite rocks which are surrounded by shale and sandstone over large areas.
As to climate, according to J. Papadakis, the area is characterised by winters of type ‘Avena Cálido’ (warm oats), except in the north-east where, under the influence of the zone of Gredos, they become type ‘Avena Fresco’ (cold oats). Summers are of the type ‘Maíz’ (maize). Average annual rainfall varies between 600 and 1 300 mm, making the area a transition zone between a wet and a dry Mediterranean climate.
Practically the entire Designation area lies in the Tagus basin. The main river network is made up of the Tietar, Jerte, Eljas and Alagón rivers.
Prospecting work carried out in the western part of the region — municipalities of Valverde del Fresno, Eljas, San Martín de Trevejo and Villamiel — has unearthed some lithic artefacts connected with the pressing process, in deposits dating back to Roman times.
From the early part of the century, Sierra de Gata was the region most known outside Spain for its oils, perhaps on account of the international prizes won. It produced an average of 650,000 kg of oil, in addition to extracting olive-residue oil and making soaps.
In Hurdes, olives were and still are the leading crop, going back roughly as far as those grown in Sierra de Gata.
In the other regions covered by the Designation, olives were the main crop until the introduction of modern fruit cultivation and the extensification of irrigation crops.
As is known, all olive trees of a single variety originate from one and the same tree, supposedly formed from grafting another variety onto the indigenous wild olive tree. The fact that, in the region covered by the Designation, a single variety is present is a clear indication of the region's homogeneity in terms of olive trees.
The presence of centuries-old olive trees of this variety thus dates recognition no later than the sixteenth century. The Manzanilla Cacereña is considered to be one of the twenty-four principal varieties of olive tree in Spain because of its predominance in the northern part of the province of Cáceres, accounting for 47 % of the total nationwide.
The variety is not very vigorous, takes root easily and adapts well to poor soils and cold regions. Flowering is early, and the variety is considered self-compatible and to have a low rate of ovarian abortion.
Its fruits ripen early and irregularly, presenting low resistance to detachment, which facilitates harvesting by machine.
It is very attractive because of its dual suitability for culinary purposes and milling, the speed with which it comes into production, and its high and constant productivity in normal growing conditions.
Its oil content is low, approximately 15 % of wet matter.