“When planting an olive grove, move not with haste…for the decision will not only affect your children, but your grandchildren and future generations…”
So were the words Detlev Von Rosen uttered during our last evening together at his estate. Detlev always wanted to be a farmer. When he discovered his twenty-hectare orange grove took one thousand glasses of water to produce only one glass of orange juice, he sit it afire in a blaze of glory. He vowed to cultivate a water-wise crop. His options were fig, carob or olive. Without a second thought, he chose olive.
He studied the cultivars, planting, pruning and irrigation methodology under the tutelage of horticulturalist Paul Vossen. After some time his grove was producing Class-A extra virgin olive oil, though he never made a profit. His feverish passion for growing olives was supported by his successful ornamental plant business.
Detlev composts to regenerate depleting topsoil throughout his property. He hand-harvests before anyone in his region – at the end of August – when the olives are lemony green. He even crushes his olives in the now much maligned method of traditional stone-milling, yielding exceptional results.
He grows Cobrancosa, Macanilha, Verdeal, Frantoio and Picual olives. I’ve selected his Picual due to its soft undertones of sweet almond, viscous buttery texture, balanced bitterness and elongated peppery finish. Excellent on grilled seafood, eggs, chicken, fresh vegetables or drizzled atop a soup.
Much of the praise for Portugal’s wine industry is directed at the producers in the Dao and Douro valleys in the northern half of the country. As a result, wines from pretty much any other region in the country, such as Algarve, offer great values. The only problem is finding them – for example, a recent search of New York State shows 1,663 wines from Portugal are available for purchase at the wholesale level, with only two coming from Algarve.
What Algarve lacks in volume it makes up for in character. Growers in this southernmost area focus on indigenous white grapes Arinto, Malvasia Fina, and Manteudo and indigenous red grapes Castelao and Negra Mole to provide the main flavoring profiles. Lately, producers are also using indigenous grapes from the north such as Alvarinho and Touriga Nacional along with international grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to add softer textures and rounder flavors. The white wines are characteristically clean, fresh, and ready to drink upon release; ideal for the local Mediterranean fare. The red wines range quite a bit, but are generally approachable and pleasant and are best paired with an outdoor fire and good company.