Olive trees were already part of the scenery in the distant past of Languedoc-Roussillon, but it was the Greeks, in particular their navigators and explorers, who brought the knowledge required to cultivate the crop to this region some 2,500 years ago.
Back in the day, after founding the village of Collias (north of Nīmes), they grafted an olive tree to a native wild olive tree, thus creating the 'plant of Collias'. The Picholine olive produced by this plant (it is named after a semi-industrial preparation invented by the Picholini brothers in the 18th Century) is now the most widely grown olive in France.
The variety is essential to olive oil boasting the Nīmes AOC, whose specifications stipulate at least 70% of the olives used to make it must be of the Picholine variety (with the smaller part being made up of Négrette and Noirette olives).
The AOC designation, the first granted to an olive oil in Languedoc, on 17th November 2004, was the result of the passion, will and courage of the region's olive growers, who had developed the knowledge and experience needed to produce a high quality olive oil. This olive oil is now considered to be one of the best in France.
Although they are unable to compete with the main olive oil producing countries in terms of quantity (while France produces some 200 or 300 tons a year, Spain does the same in a single day), the olive growers of the Languedoc focused on creating a product matching up to a strict set of criteria in terms of quality and flavour, and manufactured according to traditional methods, linked closely with the ways of the region and nature itself.
Nīmes AOC olive oil is the result of the coming together of a region (as symbolised by the Picholine olive) the know-how of the producers and mill masters (who run strict quality checks on the olives they use), and flavour.
Each batch produced is unique, due to the craft of the mill masters. These artisans, whose work elevates them to the same level as goldsmiths in the eyes of some, make their stamp on the product as they mix, dose, adjust, re-adjust and fine-tune the oil, perfecting its strength and flavour in the process.
It is this flavour, which varies slightly from mill to mill, that sets Nīmes AOC olive oil apart from others. The Picholine olive produces oil with a touch of bitterness, a warm flavour and the scent of pineapple and yellow plums (intense in the nostrils and present on the tongue).
Like some wines, there is no doubt that this olive oil has body. The Picholine's strong flavour makes it ideal with shellfish, imparting sublime aromas as it cooks.
The Picholine olive is an AOC in its own right, registered as an edible olive called 'Olives vertes de Nīmes'.
This variety of olive oil has been granted AOC ('Controlled Designation of Origin') certification. It is also a key ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine.© Easyvoyage.com
Fresh and light, the olive is mainly served with salads and raw vegetables. Having said that, it is also excellent with traditional dishes as in 'tapenade' and 'anchoļade'.© Easyvoyage.com
If you take the time to appreciate this incomparable olive oil you'll notice that it has fruity aromas plus a hint of bitterness that makes it unique.© Subbotina / 123RF
Various olive-related events are held in the region right throughout the year.© Easyvoyage.com
Many different varieties of olive are grown in the region; from the spicy green olive to the mature black olive, there really is something to suit all tastes.© Easyvoyage.com