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In the heart of Navarre (Northern Spain) four brothers took over the reins of the company created by their father in 1997. The idea was born after a trip to Italy, in 1992, thanks to which, years later, the Gracia family started production of Extra virgin olive oil.
The particular climatic conditions, typical of the Nordic areas, make the work much more complex and hard. The result, however, is worth the sacrifice, and the many awards obtained at an international level, as Roberto Gracia tells us.
When and how was Aceites La Maja born?
It was born in 1997. Due to the various trips my father made to southern Spain and Italy. He always had in mind and the illusion of being able to make his own special olive oil with his own olives. And such was his illusion that in 1997, as a result of a series of events in the family business and without knowing much about the world of olive oil, we decided to change the entire business, forming ourselves in this world and starting a new journey to materialize his idea of producing your own oil. And so our first olive grove was planted. The production of the first oil would come three years later with the turn of the century, in the year 2000.
Does the company name have a particular meaning or is it a random choice?
One of the first farms where we started planting was called “La Maja”. In the 1st century in that area there was a Roman Alfar, a place where pots and utensils were made of fired clay. And it was there that a ceramic antefix was found, which is a piece that was put on the edge of the roofs for decoration and so that the birds did not enter under the tiles. This piece, now in the museum of La Rioja, contains the face of a woman who was called La Maja and who gave the name to the term where we started the plantations. This is where the name of our company and our oil come from. Even our logo is the face of the ceramic piece that was found in that place La Maja.
In which area of Spain is the farm located and what is the characteristic of this geographical area that makes olive production special?
As in all businesses, sometimes you have to make decisions and one of them was to get rid of the farm that gave the company its name to concentrate our main production in a single geographical area, on the Navarra rivera, in the north of Spain. It is one of the olive growing areas for oil further north of the equator.
We are in the Ebro valley as it passes through Navarra, where the structure and composition of the land together with the weather make this area ideal for almost all types of crops and of course for the olive tree it is ideal. Due to the latitude in which we are, the olive trees receive fewer hours of sun than in southern Spain and makes them less productive. They enter into bloom almost a month later and yet the olive ripening time is almost the same as in southern Spain, just a week later. This “rapid” development of the plant, together with climatological and orographic factors, make the oil different, with a high oleic/ linoleic ratio. Arbequina oil, made with the same maturation as in other southern areas, the one from here has a better aging. There are also local varieties, such as Arróniz, popularly called Vidrial or Royuela in La Rioja. Our oil mill is located in Mendavia, which is the town with the most Denominations of Origin in Spain, 11 exactly, and this gives an idea of the special characteristics of the area, as well as the concern of farmers here for the quality of their products.
What are the cultivars on the farm?
The plantation is arranged in both traditional and intensive frames and the main varieties are the Arbequina and the Arróniz. We have other varieties such as Arbosana, Tosca and Koroneiki. And we have also started with organic production.
Why is your EVOO special?
There is no specific reason that makes it special, it is the set of everything. On the one hand, they are the characteristics of the Ebro valley, which makes the area where the olive trees and olive trees with which we make our EVOOs are developed and grown special. On the other hand, it is the early elaboration that we have been doing since our beginnings, and that at that time very few did. But, above all it is the care, dedication and family work with which we continue to maintain the idea that my father had of making our own special Olive Oil.