In the northern corner of Extremadura is the Sierra de Gata nature preserve where the Manzanilla Cacereña olive grows, a variety indigenous to the area and the only olive pressed to make this oil.
While many olive oil companies have been at it for generations, As Pontis (founded in 2008) is the new kid on the block. Their seeming lack of experience isn’t a hindrance, however. It’s freed them to blend modern technologies with artisan techniques and produce an oil that’s not only delicious, but environmentally sound and sustainable. It’s one of the most forward thinking companies I’ve encountered in recent memory.
Everything’s organic. All the energy used for the mill is created by their biodigester, which is fueled by their own discarded olive pits and wasted olive pulp. All the water they use is purified at the estate and returned to the environment cleaner than when it arrived. The sludge from the purifying and all the trimmings from the trees is composted and used as natural fertilizer. They’re not completely “off the grid,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a zero-carbon footprint within a decade.
In addition to their environmental aims, As Pontis aims to employ as many folks as possible in an area of Spain where jobs are scarce. They source their olives from small local growers surrounding the mill and all the olives are handpicked to avoid any bruising of the fruit. The olives are delivered to the mill and pressed within 24 hours of harvest. The fresh oil is stored in nitrogen-flushed stainless steel tanks to keep it from oxidizing and to ensure its flavor lasts as long as possible.
All this care makes delicious oil. Slightly sweet upfront with a bit of spice and bitterness in the finish, it’s an extra virgin olive oil you can use every day in every way. One of the best “new” Spanish oils I’ve tasted in quite some time.
Zingerman's Food Tours is visiting Spain in October 2014. Join us for a behind the scenes journey to traditional food makers like this.