Olive oil consumption has tripled in France over the last 15 years, noticeably even in North of France where they used to cook only with butter.
This is all good: the nation is becoming more and more health conscious, more aware of the benefits of extra virgin olive oil.
But as France does not figure amongst the top 7 producers of olive oil -- it simply does not produce enough olive oil at present – we consumers need to study the labels before selecting our bottle of precious EVOO.
European regulations state that all products should state their provenance quite clearly on the label, not so straightforward in the case of olive oil.
What we need to know about Provenance
AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlée) a national concept, is that which links the olive oil to the region of production, and the know-how of that area. This notion of terroir tells us that the geographical and environmental conditions, the soil, the sun are all factors that contribute to that particular olive oil.
PDO or AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protégée)
As so much olive oil is produced in Europe these days with fierce competition amongst producers, the European Union wishing to protect and inform consumers, created PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) for olive oil products linked to terroir. PDO products must be produced, processed and prepared exclusively in the place of origin.
Protected Geographic Indication (PGI)
Less stringent than PDO, this designation was also introduced by the EU; here the products have a specific characteristic associated with a given area. The PGI logo shows that while the raw materials may come from a different region, at least one stage of the production process was carried out in the area mentioned.
To sum up, both European labels, PDO and PGI refer to the name of a region, place or country used to describe olive oil coming from that region but the link with the area is stronger in PDO.