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Normally, a trip to an olive oil factory isn’t one of my vacation highlights. But when I was in Chile last week, I had a great visit at Olisur in the Colchagua Valley (it’s the wine that usually gets the attention), set scenically between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Since Chile just seems to have discovered that it can produce great olive oil, Olisur is one of a few labels that are starting to hit the U.S. market. (At New York City’s Co. pizza, Jim Lahey has started to market Chilean olive oil, too.) Olisur has distinguished itself by winning big at a prestigious olive oil tasting in Italy last year (its Premium extra-virgin oils did better than Italy’s and Spain’s in a competition that some people compared to the Judgment of Paris, when California wines beat their French counterparts in 1976).
© Joshua David Stein
© Joshua David Stein
Olisur's groovy, eco olive oil factory in Chile.
But back to the factory. It’s set on a vast property–6,500 acres—where eight types of Spanish, Italian and Greek olives are grown. They’re harvested with an innovative machine, which looks like it’s straight out of Transformers, that gently shakes the trees to gather the olives. (Usually, that machine was used to harvest grapes.) One reason to like the oil: It’s pressed within two hours of the olives being picked, so it tastes superfresh (also nicely peppery and grassy). Another reason: The reasonable price tag. A one-liter bottle of their O-live line is about $10.99; 500-ml bottle of the Premium and Limited-Edition Santiago labels costs about $14.99. And here’s one more reason I liked Olisur: its eco-profile. A local journalist called the mill Chile’s greenest operation, because it uses geothermal temperature control in the factory and recycled olive pulp to fertilize the groves and they're in the process of installing solar panels.
If you’re not on your way to Chile, Olisur olive oils will be hitting grocery-store shelves in the U.S. in early June.