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The 'best' imported olive oil..

What, in your opinion, is the best imported olive oil you've tried for under $30.00?? And/or if you have a favorite import, what is it?? If I may ask.

I saw the America's Test Kitchen episode where COLUMELA was coronated as 'the best', I'm a little dubious as other polls have COLAVITA as the best, but I wasn't all that impressed with it. I also keep hearing good things about Lebanese OO, which along with COLUMELA, I have yet to try. At an OO tasting, I thought the Provençal oils were the most tasty, if that means anything.

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  1. Aria extra virgin olive oil from Crete is my favorite. You can get a 1/2 liter bottle for $24.95. I have never tasted an olive oil that is smoother yet also packs a huge olive heavy punch.

    For a domestic oil Bariani makes the best I have tasted.

    1. Under $20 for what volume? 500, 750ml, L? There's a wide range of very good and distinctive oils in this range. Two I adore are the Segreto DOP Monti Iblei form Sicily, ( about $25 for 750ml) and a strong second for Bariani's regular bottling extra virgin, at less than $30 Litre. Barbera's many labels from Sicily (Frantoia, for one) are excellent everyday oils, often as cheap as $21 Litre.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bob96

        Crete-no better place/accept no substitutes.

      2. Disregarding your dollar amount, Laudemio from Florence has been my fav for a long while. Neither hot, nor acidic it is a wonderful finishing oil. Sells for @$ 35/500 ml.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Delucacheesemonger

          Laudemio is a collective trade brand name for high-end Tuscan estates, not a single grower. It's a good Tuscan oil, but $70/liter?

          1. re: bob96

            Never claimed a single grower, have four different ones in my fridge right now, they cost between $28 and $42/500ml.

          2. re: Delucacheesemonger

            I get Castello de Poppiano Laudemio for $25/ 500 ml. Is that the same stuff? I love it.

          3. Volpaia. I have tried nearly all that others have named thus far along with many, many other labels and they all fall short when compared to Volpaia. You'll want to purchase oil made with the fall 2010 harvest olives.

            1. Zaytoun is the best I've come across. Organic and Fair Trade Palestinian oil. Currently impossible to get as exports are being prevented by the occupation forces, according to two local suppliers.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Harters

                Blockade appears to have been lifted (or "other arrangements" found) as I recently found Zaytoun, although not in my own region of the country)

                1. re: Harters

                  I got my Palestinian oil and zatar fix by going to a lecture on fair trade in Palestine, Lol!

                  1. re: luciaannek

                    I boughtt Zaytoun zater, couscous and almonds at a recent gig by comedian Mark Thomas (oil also on sale). He recently walked the length of the wall that Israel has erected in occupied Palestine. Very interesting and very funny.

              2. Nice replies, but has anyone tried the COLUMELA I mentioned earlier??

                2 Replies
                1. re: arktos

                  Columela and it's 3-4 cohorts are excellent Spanish oils. Of that genre, the one that won my heart was Nunez de Prado, in l liter cans far less expensive that the square bottles it and Columela also comes in.

                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    I second Nunez de Prado 'Fleur de l'huile'. Beautiful

                2. Disregarding price, Batali and Eric Ripert use Frantoia for finishing so take it for what it's worth.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: Evilbanana11

                    Frantoia oil from Sicily does not work for me, as has very 'hot' notes in the throat as many Sicilian oils do.

                    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                      My personal favorites is one of the seven or so Lebanese oils that Alawi offers, the one that's from the trees that are 2,500 years old (that's the Akkar, I think I need the booklet in front of me to make sure) of the reamaing I'm OK with the Maryejoun ambivalent about the Hasbaya, hate the Zgarta (I'm not a big fan of peppery oils) and Havent had a chance to try the others.

                      1. re: jumpingmonk

                        Correction, I found the booklet and the Oil I was so fond of was Batroun, not Akkar (Akkar was similar to the Maryejoun okay, but nothig special

                        1. re: jumpingmonk

                          No one mentioned Badia e Coltabuono from Tuscany. Always available from Whole Foods and Italian specialty stores. BTW, all the New Jersey chowers take note. Many of the Shop Rites have DeCecco extra virgin on sale for $6.99. It's usually around 20 bucks. They've run this sale since late summer. You cannot find a better oil for the money. Yes, it's a liter.

                  2. I really like this SICILIANI premiati oleifici 'unfiltered' EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL. Doesn't look very pretty as it's kinda cloudy with some sedimentation, but it does pack quite a punch of flavor: fruity without going-over-the-top, no trace of bitterness and a very subtle after taste and a smooth texture. It's also reasonably priced at $13- per 1 Liter bottle. Think I'll stick with it up until our crashing foreign-trade deficit makes it unaffordable.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: arktos

                      falconero is my favorite "finishing" olive oil. I use Sasso, which is inexpensive, for most cooking. I love the fruit forward flavor of falconero, which has a bit of pepper in the finish.

                    2. The best olive oils win multiple international awards. As they have to go through multiples layers of tastings by experts. Some multiple award winners for under $30.00 are "Oro Bailen" , "Parqueoliva Serie Oro" and "Cortijo de Suerte Alta", all from Spain, they are easy to find online

                      1. Caveat emptor: Most "Italian" olive oils sold in the US are actually from olives grown in Spain! They are pressed in Spain, then shipped in large containers to Italy where they are bottled. So "made in Italy" on Olive Oil bottles is very misleading!!

                        15 Replies
                        1. re: menton1

                          There have been many threads on the olive oil identity issue. All you need to know is this: "Imported from" and "Packed in" Italy can and usually do signify oil made from olives from a number of countries, inc. Spain. Law now requires these source places to be listed. Look for an estate or grower with an Italian address and/or the words "made from 100% Italian olives.".Italy legally imports huge amounts of oil from Spain (world's largest producer) to feed its demand; almost all large national Italian brands (Sasso, Monini, Berio, Bertolli, Farchionni, Carapelli) include Spanish oil in their base bottlings of extra virgin. Doesn't make it bad, but if you're looking for all-Italian oil, you need to know how to read the label. Of course, DOP of IGP seals will ensure local production. The riskiest thing to do is buy an inexpensive "sale" bottle with no Italian address or use-by date or any indication of origin, except "imported from Italy".

                          1. re: bob96

                            Not true. Bertolli, which is 96% Spanish olives, lists NO country of origin on the bottle in the local supermarket. All it says is "imported from Italy". Deception is alive and well.

                            1. re: menton1

                              The label on the last bottle of Bertolli that I read in a mainstream grocery store here in Vancouver had a blurb about 'being true to our Mediterranean roots' which I interpreted to mean that they handled Olives and Oil from all over the Med including Tunisia and Libya.

                              1. re: menton1

                                Was that their extra virgin or plain ole olive oil? As far as I know, USDA law changed in October to match EU regs requiring extra virgin bottles to carry country(ies) of origin.

                                1. re: bob96

                                  It was EVOO. Checked again today in ShopRite. No such law, apparently.

                                  1. re: menton1

                                    There is a law, and here's a link to it in a report summarizing the state of Italy's evoo.
                                    Both the US and EU require listing country of origin of the olives (usually a 2 letter code on the back label); I've seen this coding on many bottles from large Italian producers. I suspect the bottles you see were produced before the 2009 law (which gave an 18 month window of compliance), probably older stock. B

                                    1. re: bob96

                                      I suspect "Country of origin" is open to interpretation. The law should read "Country where olives are grown" instead. The first wording is ambiguous, which is what these Companies are hoping for, anyway.

                                      1. re: menton1

                                        Not really open to interpretation: the law says exactly this: where the olives were grown. I saw this wording, and countries listed (Spain, Greece, Tunisia) on a gallon of Berio today; not unclear at all.

                                        1. re: bob96

                                          So these slick bottlers put the Italian flag with the word "Italy" on the front of the bottle, and then a little 2 letter code on the back, meaningless to most unless you know what you're looking for. Great law.

                                          1. re: menton1

                                            Italy has always been more of a processor and bottler than an agricultural producer. no big surprise there.

                                            1. re: hill food

                                              What does that tidbit have to do with deceiving the public?

                                              1. re: menton1

                                                was that in response to me? I was only referring to the questions about the sources. nobody reads labels and when they finally do they learn something that's been common knowledge for years. no deception, just oblivious consumers confusing product source with production source. one could bottle California olive oil as "Yukon Gold" and there would be a few running around claiming they had found Alaskan/Canadian. that's all. lovely oil being put out from all countries named, but people see a name and assume it has something to do with the true source.

                                                1. re: hill food

                                                  Oh really?? "Oblivious consumers"?? They put the word "ITALY" large caps, amd a nice rendition of the Italian flag, the nice green, white and red, and you don't call this deception? How about saying "bottled in Italy from olives grown in Spain".

                                                  That's skulduggery, my friend.

                                                  1. re: menton1

                                                    skulduggery or a blatant marketing technique? it doesn't serve their purposes to be too honest, but the info is there if one cares (sorry I used to work in marketing - different industry) and one was always honest, but one always made sure anything not 100% advantageous was definitely not front and center. misleading yes, illegal no.

                                                    gotta always read the fine print (esp the words between the lines), always.

                                            2. re: menton1

                                              No, the code is prefaced by language something like "bottled in Italy from olives from...". Only so far you can take the consumer.

                            2. My favorite imported oil is Spitiko from Greece.

                              It's a very green, very fruity extra virgin that is inexpensive enough, (about $10/ltr), to use for absolutely everything .

                              And I do.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: DoobieWah

                                I don't even remember the name, but it was from a Greek grocer in a 2.5 L can for about $30 and was awesome. 2nd best was a smaller can a friend brought back from Turkey. just forget the mainstream brands and bulk up on the unknown - the cost per ounce comes out lower than by the 16oz. and you get to find great surprises.

                              2. The one that YOU like best - no question about that.

                                I've had many hundreds, and never worry about what others think. I go for what I like, and let the others fight over the dregs.


                                1. a friend brought back a can of Olive Oil from Greece. It was unbelievable. I have never been able to find it here. I would actually do shots of it it was so good.

                                  1. Having fresh new olive oil straight from the grower is indeed a revelation. Now that I have seen the groves and the olives crushed and tasted the resulting pure oil from the first press (in Croatia) I am hooked. So very different from commercial oils I have tried with far more intense flavour. Absolutely superb. We will now be bringing back a few litres each time we go.

                                      1. re: menton1

                                        Fantastic oil. Buttery, rich, not particularly green in flavor. It is one of the three olive oils I always have around. I usually keep a bottle of Olivista Robusta from California because I can get it quite cheaply. The other one varies, but it is more often than not of Greek or Spanish origin. I generally look for something with a noticeable bitter tang and a grassy initial flavor. Frantoia is the one I have cracked right now.

                                        1. re: menton1

                                          I love Alziari and wanted to mention it way earlier but then the OP wanted oils that were less than $30... :-)

                                          Have you tried Maussane? The label actually says "HUILE D'OLIVE de la Valée des Baux de Provence" with the cooperative that puts it out being based in Maussane-les-Alpilles.

                                          1. re: menton1

                                            No indication on the can of origin, and there can't be, since olives are sourced from Spain, Italy, and France (but certainly not much form the meagre groves of le pays nicois). What was that about Italians?

                                          2. I recently discovered an olive oil from Australia that was very good IMO called OliVaylle.

                                            Though to be honest, I'm trying to get away from imported foods and excessive food miles and am looking towards California for olive oils. I think it's hard to beat McEvoy Ranch.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Suzanne

                                              +1 on the "excessive food miles" point. I, too, am trying more CA oils (I live in CA).

                                            2. Carbonell Extra Virgin Olive Oil, in the green can, is an excellent finishing oil. I just love it.
                                              $58.00 for 3/4 gallon/3 Liters.

                                              1. In the NYC area we have a supermarket chain called Fairway that has an impressive selection of olive oils that you can taste before purchasing. My recent favorite is the Baena brand from the Cordoba region of Spain. It is amazing and only $27.99 for a 3 litre can ($9.99 for one litre).