What is a Protected Designation of Origin for olive oil?

Before explaining what a Protected Designation of Origin is, we must explain its origin and the reason for its existence. In the European Union there is a great wealth and variety of food products. When a product acquires a certain reputation, it may be subject to usurpations and imitations. This unfair competition not only has a negative impact on producers but also on consumers in the form of fraud.

For this reason, quality regimes known as PDO, PGI and TSG (Protected Designation of Origin, Protected Geographical Indication and Traditional Specialty Guaranteed) exist to protect agricultural products and foodstuffs.

The PDO/PGI regime helps producers of products linked to a geographical area in three different ways. First, it ensures fair remuneration for the qualities of their products. Secondly, it guarantees the names of these products, as intellectual property rights, uniform protection throughout the European Union. And finally, it provides consumers with clear information on the properties that give added value to these products.

In short, these designations cover products that are protected by European Union regulations that guarantee compliance with higher requirements than those demanded for other products.

The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is the name of a district or region, a specific place and sometimes even a country, with which an agri-food product is designated and which must meet the following requirements:

– To be originating from that territory, both the production of its raw material and its production or transformation.

– To have a quality or characteristics that are fundamentally or exclusively due to the geographical environment with its natural and human factors.

– A public entity regulates and monitors compliance with the standards.


Are there other quality seals recognized by the EU ?

In addition to the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), the European Union recognizes two other quality seals with these peculiarities.

Products with a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) have a specific quality that can be attributed to a geographical origin and whose production or processing is carried out in the defined geographical area from which it takes its name.

Traditional Specialties Guaranteed (TSG) are products with specific features that differentiate them from other foods in the same category, and are produced from traditional raw materials, or have a traditional composition, production method or processing.

What legal rights do these quality seals have?

As they are registered by the European Union, both the Protected Designation of Origin and the Protected Geographical Indication have the following Intellectual Property rights against:

Any direct or indirect commercial use of a registered name on products not covered by the registration, when such products are comparable to products registered under that name or when the use of the name takes advantage of the reputation of the protected name, even when such products are used as ingredients.

Any misuse, imitation or evocation, even if the true origin of the products or services is indicated or if the protected name is translated or accompanied by expressions such as “style”, “type”, “method”, “produced as in”, “imitation” or similar expressions; even when such products are used as ingredients.

Any other type of false or misleading indication as to the provenance, origin, nature or essential characteristics of the products, used on the container or packaging, in advertising or in documents relating to the products in question, as well as the use of containers which by their characteristics may create an erroneous impression as to their origin.

Any other practice that may mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product.

In the case of the Traditional Specialty Guaranteed seal, although it does not enjoy Intellectual Property rights, they are protected against any improper use, imitation or evocation and against any other practice that may mislead the consumer.

How are these seals recognized?

The labeling of certified agri-food products may include the symbol of the European Union associated with it next to the registered name of the product, and must appear in the same visual field.

The terms “Protected Designation of Origin”, “Protected Geographical Indication” or “Traditional Speciality Guaranteed”, or the corresponding abbreviations “PDO”, “PGI” or “TSG” may appear on the labeling of agri-food products.

What are the differences between a PDO and a PGI?

There are two fundamental differences:

– In a PDO product all the production stages are carried out in the defined geographical area, whereas in a PGI product only one of the stages needs to be carried out in the same geographical area.

– In a PDO product the link between the characteristics of the product and the geographical area in which it is produced is stronger than in a PGI product, since the characteristics of the PDO product are fundamentally or exclusively due to the geographical area, whereas in a PGI product only one quality, reputation or characteristic needs to be due to the geographical area.

For example, the entire process of elaboration of the extra virgin olive oil of the Denomination of Origin Estepa is carried out in this region, from the collection of the olives from its olive groves through its milling and packaging. In the case of the Protected Geographical Indication Mantecados de Estepa, the production of the mantecado is regulated, indicating the geographical area and the quantities to be used, although it is not obligatory for the ingredients to be grown and processed in the producing area.

What are the differences between a PDO or PGI and a TSG?

There are three fundamental differences between a PDO/PGI and a TSG:

– A PDO/PGI protects a name that identifies a product originating from a specific place, while a TSG protects production methods and traditional recipes.

– In a PDO/PGI product, the specificity is due to the origin of the product, while in a TSG it is due to the traditional character.

– PDOs/PGIs constitute a right to intellectual property, while TSGs do not grant a right to intellectual property but the right to incorporate the indication “Traditional Specialty Guaranteed” on the label of the product.

Is a Denomination of Origin (DO) the same as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)?

Yes, it is. Before Spain joined the European Union, there was only the term “Denomination of Origin”. However, since 2009 the term “Denomination of Origin” can no longer be used, but only “Protected Designation of Origin”. It is the Order of January 25, 1994 of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which specifies the correspondence between Spanish and Community legislation in this matter, establishing the equivalence between “Denomination of Origin” and “Protected Designation of Origin”.

How many Protected Designations of Origin are there in Spain?

In Spain there are 68 PDOs for wine and 66 other figures of differentiated quality for other types of this product, 21 designations of origin for fresh meats, 8 for hams, 9 for sausages, 29 for cheeses, 7 for honey, 2 for butter, 19 for fruits and 24 for vegetables. Spain has 29 designations of origin for extra virgin olive oil and one Protected Geographical Indication, Aceites de Jaén. In Andalusia there are 12 protected designations of origin for extra virgin olive oil.

In the case of extra virgin olive oil, each Designation of Origin differs from the others by its geographical area, the varieties of olives used to produce its oils and its sensory characteristics.

A Protected Designation of Origin has many characteristics similar to a Protected Geographical Indication, such as the fact that they are related to a specific place and that there is a link with it. But they differ in that in a PDO product all the production phases are carried out in the defined geographical area, while in a PGI only one phase is required, and that a PDO product has a stronger link between the characteristics of the product and the geographical area in which it is produced than a PGI product.

In short, a Protected Designation of Origin is the strongest proof of the quality of a product and its link to a territory, in which, as in the case of the region of Estepa, EVOO is more than a product, it is a way of life for more than 7000 families who live there and an industrial and business fabric that supports and develops it.

What is the Protected Designation of Origin that covers Oleoestepa oils?

The Denomination of Origin Estepa certifies unique extra virgin olive oils. The territory, the climate, the way we take care of our olive trees and the way we elaborate our oils have made our “olive juice” to be recognized worldwide.

Its functions are to control and guarantee the quality of the extra virgin olive oils produced in its territory and to promote them nationally and internationally through numerous initiatives.

The Regulatory Council establishes in its Regulations the most demanding quality standard to protect extra virgin olive oils, supported especially in the sensory analysis, guaranteeing this high quality until the date of preferential consumption.

The notoriety achieved by the Region of Estepa and Puente Genil is thanks to the combination of factors such as the varieties of olive trees, climate, soil and know-how of its people, which make their extra virgin olive oils unique, and therefore since 2004 they have the Recognition and Protection of the National and Community authorities through the Protected Designation of Origin Estepa.


How can I identify if an olive oil has a Protected Designation of Origin?

It is very easy to identify a PDO on the packaging, since the product normally has a numbered back label where the denomination of origin to which it belongs is perfectly described. This numbered back label is granted by the Regulatory Council, the body that manages a PDO, to the products of the brands that have successfully passed all the quality controls.

In the example of the image we see a back label of an extra virgin olive oil of Oleoestepa, brand protected by the Denomination of Origin Estepa, where you can see perfectly the seal of the PDO Estepa and its corresponding numbering.

Although there is complete freedom to use an extra virgin olive oil of any variety, here the taste of each one rules, there are indeed recommendations for use in the kitchen according to its organoleptic properties.

The first thing to point out is that above these recommendations is the taste of each person. There are people who like dressings with more nuanced flavors in salads, as is the case of arbequina variety oils, while others prefer the more spicy and bitter aromas of extra virgin olive oil of the picual or hojiblanca varieties.


  • Preparation: salads, Andalusian fried foods, fried potatoes, breaded and battered, slow stews, canned raw or cooked foods (cheeses, cured meats…).
  • Uses: salads, fried foods, meat and game marinades, canned vegetables.
  • Recommended techniques: raw, long frying, casseroles.


  • Preparation: mayonnaise, alioli, vinaigrettes, strong fish marinades, hot and cold creams, pastas, stir-fries, canned vegetables.
  • Uses: mild salads, marinades for meats and blue fish, intense emulsions.
  • Recommended techniques: raw, preserves


  • Preparation: fried, salpicón, ceviche, sautéed meats, mollusks, baked potatoes, pizza dough, empanada, churros, doughnuts
  • Uses: salads, light fried foods, bakery doughs
  • Recommended techniques: raw, short fried foods, sautéed foods.


  • Preparation: mayonnaise, aioli, vinaigrettes, anchovies in vinegar, marinated salmon, seafood carpaccio, gazpachos and salmorejos, sautéed fish.
  • Uses: mild marinades, sauces, cold creams, pastry doughs.
  • Recommended techniques: raw, pastry


We insist, these are the recommended uses. However, ideally, you should not limit yourself to this rule. Experiment and play with flavors, trying the same dish with different varieties to find your perfect combination.

When buying olive oil in the store, we usually find labels with the denomination of an olive variety with which the extra virgin olive oil has been made. There are many doubts that customers transmit to us about the organoleptic and pairing peculiarities of each one of them.

We will try to answer your questions in the following article.


What are the main olive varieties?

More than 200 varieties of olives are grown in Spain. Each of them brings unique flavors and aromas. Each of them has different flavor and aroma characteristics. Here are the main varieties.


  • It is the predominant variety in the planet and in the Iberian Peninsula.
  • It is located in the provinces of Jaén, Córdoba and Granada.
  • It is an elongated, medium-sized olive with a beak in the center.
  • EVOO is characterized by herbaceous aromas and bitterness, due to its high content of natural antioxidants.



  • Its name derives from the whitish color of its leaf, which gives a clarity to the tree.
  • It is mainly found in Seville, Cordoba and Malaga.
  • It has a double use: as a table olive and olive oil.
  • Medium-sized round olive
  • The EVOO is characterized by its notes of different field herbs, artichoke, nettle… highlighting a characteristic spiciness.



  • Third in production volume in Spain.
  • Originally from Mora de Toledo, it is grown mainly in Toledo, Ciudad Real and Madrid, although it can also be found throughout Extremadura.
  • Elongated, asymmetrical and with its characteristic horn shape that gives its name to the variety.
  • It has a golden yellow color with slight greenish reflections that anticipate the fruity attribute.
  • It presents a harmonious balance between sweetness on entry, bitterness of green leaves and spiciness of medium intensity. The texture of this olive oil is fluid and velvety.


  • Originally from Catalonia, specifically in Tarragona and Lérida, its resistance and precocity to adapt to super-intensive cultivation has made it expand rapidly throughout the Iberian Peninsula.
  • Small olives and large stone olives
  • They are fresh and young oils that due to their composition are more delicate than other varieties against oxidation.
  • EVOO is characterized by being predominantly fruity with notes of banana, almond and apple.


According to Carmen Ruscalleda. The famous chef explains how to use extra virgin olive oil in the kitchen. This is her Decalogue.

  1. Raw

When you eat it alone with bread, or with bread and tomato, or dressing raw or cooked vegetables, extra virgin olive oil is the main protagonist.

  1. Raw and crushed

With fresh or dried herbs (with parsley and sage to make a green oil), or in a vinaigrette (it is very important because it is the great binding agent of vinaigrettes).

  1. Emulsified sauces

In minced, in mayonnaise (with a good extra virgin olive oil they become of a very different category). Mayonnaise can be flavored with a tomato confit or sautéed herbs and turned into a red or green mayonnaise.

  1. Confit

Slow heat or low temperature vacuum confit. To confit very slowly some quail legs or mushrooms. In this case, the extra virgin olive oil becomes a semi-preserve that you can then use to finish a pasta or rice dish.

  1. Fried foods

We must lose our fear of fried food. Frying is healthy if the extra virgin olive oil is good and has not been denatured, and if it is used wisely. Evidently it has a short life for frying, but for blond potatoes or tempura it is very important.

  1. Sofritos

It is necessary to use a good extra virgin olive oil for frying because it will leave the sofrito in the perfect point and will preserve it even better. I always have at home an onion that I have sautéed for many hours only with olive oil. I make them in strips and when I finish I put them in a little bag and put them in the freezer. I do the same with a tomato and some peppers. And this way, those noodles, that rice, those potatoes will never be “more of the same”.

  1. Roasts

In the casserole or in the oven, with just one meat or mixing them, something very typical of Mediterranean gastronomy. The extra virgin olive oil will help to caramelize and bring out all those fantastic juices of roasted meat.

  1. Baking

With shorter roasts, for fish, which require less temperature because they have a more delicate texture, or for vegetables. It is important the extra virgin olive oil thread, which will make sweat the flavor of the product and will become a perfumed sauce of the same extra virgin olive oil.

  1. Paellas

In rice, fideuás, you start first frying the pasta to make it dry and then it is perfect, vigorous. In this case the quality of the extra virgin olive oil is very important.

  1. In pastry

In pastry making it pairs very well with chocolate, not only cold. But a “ganache” type chocolate, warm and melting, with a touch of extra virgin olive oil and salt, is magnificent. And a creamy ice cream, which can be almond or vanilla, with a touch of extra virgin olive oil is fantastic.

Gerardo Capitán Narbona

Oil master miller of the associated cooperative Olivarera Nuestra Señora de la Fuensanta in Corcoya (Seville).

Although the new campaign brings him to almost three lustrums of experience as an oil mill master, his professional link with the cooperative stretches back over two decades. “I started working in the cooperative’s office, but my training and interest in everything related to quality management made me keep an eye out for opportunities that arose in the mill, and that came after six years of combining my office work with the management of olive reception during the season, in the form of promotion to master miller”, Gerardo explains.

He considers that his knowledge of quality control has been key to his professional development as a master. “The technical training courses for teachers promoted by IFAPA and Oleoestepa were very useful for me, but it would not have been enough without the culture of quality that I received in my studies,” Gerardo explains. In fact, at the beginning, his obligation was to ensure the implementation of and compliance with the new quality standards. “Now they are complied with without a second thought, but it was not easy to make everyone (farmers and technicians) see the importance of complying with quality standards, it was a constant struggle”, Gerardo recalls.

This demand for sustainability has also been extended to the level of sustainability. “Here it’s like with pork, everything is used, nothing is thrown away,” explains Gerardo. “In fact, the branches and leaves that are discarded when cleaning the olives are treated for use as biomass.

But he is clear about the priority: extracting the juice from a healthy, freshly harvested olive. That is why cleanliness and speed in the extraction process are key for Gerardo in achieving a high quality extra virgin olive oil. “Controlling these two factors, the crucial moment is in the selection during reception, which is why the mill master must dedicate almost all his time to monitoring the fruit that arrives and making an appropriate distribution to the different lines according to their expected quality,” Gerardo explains. “And of course, always counting on quality fruit, which is why I never tire of asking our associate growers to take the utmost care of the olive trees, and I know that they do”, Gerardo gratefully transmits.

When the olive juice extraction campaign comes to an end, it is time for a thorough overhaul of all the machinery, checking and incorporating new technology and, of course, cleaning it to the maximum, leaving it in perfect condition for the next campaign.

After so many years of experience, the level of expectation generated by the start of each campaign is still very high. “The desire to improve continues to be enormous and even more so to share it with his colleagues in order to achieve better oils”, adds a master who is excited about his “profession”.

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