A Northern Croatian hotel group, Maistra, is offering guests a chance to learn all about olive oil with guided tours around local farms and tastings.
Olive oil from the Istria region is said to be amongst the best in the world but you might not have seen it on the shelves of the UK’s supermarkets The production quantity is quite small and as most is sold in Croatia, there’s not much export.
Peter Loesch, Director of Maistra’s luxury division, says guests will learn a lot from the tastings. “You open the bottle, you put it in many glasses like shot glasses, you smell it then you put it in your mouth, mix it with oxygen and you get the taste on the front of your tongue. The whole process is similar to a wine tasting.”
Peter says you don’t need any previous knowledge and you needn’t feel intimidated, the way some people do for wine tastings. “If you’re not an expert you feel stupid listening to a winemaker but olive oil is a lot simpler – we don’t have so many varieties. It’s not like a wine tasting where you might sample twenty wines. Depending on the olive oil producer, there will be one to five different olive oils.” The olive oil producers will also tell you what to look out for when buying olive oil in supermarkets. “From the packaging to the labelling they really give you a lot of information you’ve never heard before.”
Peter says olive oil tastings are offered along with wine tastings at the hotels, but he recommends the experience of visiting one of the producers. “The really interesting thing is if you go on the farm you see the trees, you meet the family who have been growing the olives for fifty years. It’s much more authentic.”
Peter says the northern Croatia area of Istria is a gastronomic gem. “There is historically more attention to good food, cooking and farming. We have great truffles here and wine. It’s also influenced by Italy, which is just 30 km away. There’s more attention to creating a great experience and excellent products than other parts of the country.”
All of Maistra’s hotels are within walking distance of the historic Roman-founded town of Rovinj. They specialise in local food and Peter says if, for instance, they can’t find local tomatoes they will take them off the menu. Within fifteen minutes walk you’ll find the historic old fishing village, with at least twenty good restaurants from fine dining to typical authentic local fresh food.
For more information on the company’s 23 properties, from design hotels to 5-star properties and four-star family stays around Istria, go to Maistra.hr. In the summer months from May to October Ryanair fly direct to Pula from London Stansted.