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Núñez de Prado
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Reviewed by Elliot Essman

The family’s name may be difficult to type on a non-specialized keyboard, but its Núñez de Prado Extra Virgin Olive Oil is definitely worth taking some trouble to obtain. DHC Fine Foods, which also markets a fine line of skin-care products, is the American distributor of this craft-made, unfiltered, certified organic extra-virgin olive oil from the town of Baena, in the Cordoba province of Andalucia in southern Spain. They shipped me bottle number 2117968 to put through its paces.

I’m getting to know that number quite well, though it hasn’t yet become a part of my arsenal of passwords. The 500ml bottle of gold has been staring back at me for some time; it is liable to have some staying power in my cupboard (I never let sunlight touch olive oil), since this is hardly the first lubricant I turn to for sloshing, splashing, or stir-frying. It’s far too good for that kind of thing. For several months, my only experience with Núñez de Prado was through the medium of a teaspoon. If you enjoy your oil straight-up, this is an excellent candidate for a dégustation. This is a robust oil, with notes of green olives, oranges, lemons, grasses, and apples. You don’t want to muddle this oil too much into cooked dishes; it is better drizzled, as a finishing touch, on bitter salad greens, on plain pasta with a little (I said a little) garlic, on simple bruschetta with fresh tomato and basil, as a finish for soups.

Spain ships millions of tons of olive oil annually, most of it processed with industrial efficiency and specialized machinery. It only takes a few seconds for a great machine to shake an olive tree clean. It takes a surprisingly quick twenty minutes for a skilled picker to cull a trees-worth of the finest olives by hand. Núñez de Prado processes these gems daily, instead of saving them up to benefit from economies of scale. They crush, but do not press, the olives. The oil is allowed to drip into collecting vats naturally, requiring eleven kilos of olives to produce a kilo of oil, instead of the usual five. They call the proud result Flor de Aciete (Flower of the Oil). This oil weighs in at an acidity level between 0.09 and 0.17 percent, less than a fifth the threshold for extra virgin, smooth to the tongue, yet brimming with unapologetic flavor.

I’ve essayed quite a few numbers here (2117968 included), not to mention words, but Núñez de Prado is well worth a taste, which is the real reason it is produced with such great care. DHC Fine Foods’s asking price, as of this writing, is $28 for the 500ml bottle. Top -- Culinary Reviews Home

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