The Olive Tree, a venerable tree
The olive tree and its oil have always been linked to the myths and ancient religions scattered around the Mediterranean. Classical mythology claims that it was the goddess Athena, the protector of Athens, who brought the olive tree to ancient Greece. The sea god Poseidon challenged her power, and gave the people of Athens a sacred lake in the Acropolis. The goddess replied by causing an olive tree to sprout from the ground.
The gods made a perfect choice: the olive tree lived for hundreds of years and gave its fruit, from which was made a magnificent oil with a wide range of uses. Olive oil was used as a highly nutritious food, as a cosmetic, to cure wounds and illnesses, and it was a source of light in many homes and temples. Mediterranean people venerate the olive tree above all others; it has always been part of religious ceremonies, the worship of the gods and funeral rites.
Champions of sport and victors of war alike were crowned with olive wreaths, and the olive branch is a universal symbol of peace, of fame and of wealth.
The region of Priego de Córdoba
Many archeological remains related to the production of olive oil have been unearthed in the vicinity of Priego de Cordoba, showing just how important it has been through the ages.
Roman olive oil presses have been found, and archeological sites abound in the area. Priego, then known as Madinat Baguh, was occupied by the Moors from the middle of the 8th century, and the production of olive oil continued to play a major role in the local economy. Travellers at that time wrote about a mountainous region covered in olive trees, with olive mills powered by rivers.
The Christians reoccupied the land in the 14th century, and olive oil quickly became an intrinsic part of their cuisine. As the population expanded in the 16th century, more land was planted with olive trees, and the production of oil increased: now the Priego area began to supply other Spanish regions and even exported to the New World. From the middle of 18th century, olive farming continued to expand gradually, until today almost all agricultural land is planted with olive trees.
The olive oil from Hispania
We can´t be sure when olive oil was first used, although it was certainly enjoyed by the most ancient cultures. Phoenician and Greek merchants valued olive oil highly as a trading commodity, and encouraged the cultivation of olives in the colonies they founded. Thus, olive farming spread to Sicily, Rome and Carthage, and to the most remote corners of the Mediterranean.
The Romans took over the Iberian Peninsula and turned Hispania into an olive oil producing region: the oil became one of the principal goods to be shipped back to Rome. According to the Hispanic-born Roman historians Columella and Martial, the oil from Hispania was one of the most highly regarded, and some of the finest was produced in the south.
The prized oil was shipped from Rome to the many far-flung military outposts and cities which formed the Roman Empire. Rome itself was huge consumer of olive oil: the broken amphorae, or olive oil jars, that ended up in the city’s rubbish tip formed a small mountain, known today as Mount Testaccio. It is 35 metres high, with a perimeter of a kilometre, made up of the remains of 25 million amphorae, used to import 6 million litres of oil a year, chiefly from the Bética region of southern Spain.
The best olive oil in the world
Priego de Córdoba not only recognises the historical importance of its olive oil, but the region is also especially proud of its outstanding quality. Olive cultivation is particularly suited to the terrain, most of which is to be found within the Sierra Subbetica National Park, with its own topographic and climatic peculiarities.
The local climate plays a vital role in producing high quality olives: a special combination of varying temperatures and rainfall creates very favourable conditions.
The vast majority of the oils of the region of Priego are subjected to a comprehensive control of the entire cultivation process, production and processing, to ensure the highest quality olive oil. Among the 900 awards that include oils of the region, particularly outstanding are the 37 awards given in consecutive years between 2001 and 2016 by the International Olive Council (IOC), and awards in China, Japan, The USA, Canada, France, Italy, Israel and Argentina.
The international acclaim and number of awards is evidence that the olive oil we produce here is recognised as the finest in the world.