Fall mornings in the Douro area are fresh and luminous. They become even more magical when you get to witness the sun slowly rising on the vales of Casa Agricola Roboredo Madeira, a realm named after the family it belongs to since the 17th century. On that 250 hectares domain, you’ll find the olive trees producing the green gold that has been awarded best olive oil in the world for several years.
We were lucky to walk the paths traversing the vineyard accompanied by Filipe De Albuquerque Madeira, a lineal descendant and instigator of the olive oil production. He took us to a vantage point with a breathtaking panoramic view on the area. Felipe took advantage of the open view to show us the extent of his family’s olive trees fields. In this large space, we noticed a spot where the olive harvest was in full swing. From afar, the trees seemed to be shaking. Without further ado, we came closer to observe the process.
Fifteen workers were using long handled, vibrating tongs to shake the olives from the trees’ branches and get the mature ones to fall. I had to give it a try to realize that handling these long tongs requires more strength than I thought it would.
« Olives are mature when they turn burgundy » Felipe explained while pointing at the nets surrounding the trees, that were filling a bit more with each new tremor. Other workers were tasked with holding the big nets and pull them towards the transportation bins once the olives had all fallen from the tree. Once full, these containers are taken to the factory.
It is in this factory located at the top of the domain that Felipe showed us how the olives are sorted, washed and ground. The olives pass through several machines to extract the juice from the olive’s paste, and that juice is then squeezed to obtain the famous oil.
The final step was to enjoy the final product. I was looking forward to discover the taste hidden inside the prestigious bottles of olive oil right in front of us. Felipe took us to his place in his Rover. Few kilometres after the lovely village of Almendra, a portal opened to reveal a sunny land scattered with fruit trees. A lovely table located in the shade had been set in a corner of the garden. After an introduction of all the products, I instinctively grabbed a piece of bread and dipped it in the olive oil, but Felipe advised to do otherwise. He gave me the perfect tool to sample the oil: an official tasting glass in the shape of a small blue glass container. In order to fully taste all the flavours and notes, one needs to know the sampling method. Felipe explained the basis to me and it turns out that a tasting of olive oil is very similar to one of wine, except that the oil is denser. After a few attempts and many laughs, I finally managed to detect the incomparable flavours of that green gold.
I finally understood what makes these products so exceptional. Firstly, Felipe developed production techniques that make an extraordinary oil, and many men and women participate to that process every year. Secondly, I had a moving thought for these olive trees that have been planting their roots in the dry clay soil of Douro for centuries and now reveal the unique taste of this land.