Almería, the easternmost province of Andalusia, is crossed by the foothills of the Cordillera Penibética, the biggest southern mountain chain on the Iberian peninsula. In a high valley between the mountain massifs of the Sierra de María and the Sierra de las Estancias, just a few kilometers from the town of Vélez Blanco, is the Finca Unela.
Even from afar one can see the bright green of the lime tree that stands in front of the main building and gives it its name, »Cortijo Tilo«. It is one of those simple whitewashed houses typical of the region, which are spread thinly over the hilly country with olive groves and intervening broad areas of brushwood. Here and there one sees a donkey go past; these animals are still, as ever, an essential component in the work process. In this place time seems to have lost its urge to drive forward.
Even though the Mediterranean is not far away, very few tourists find their way into this rural, thinly populated, almost barren region, where almonds and olives are traditionally among the most important products – small harvests that usually don’t travel outside the province’s borders. Here Pedro Aliaga and seine Frau Asunción operate the Finca, which consists of a few houses and sheds and provides our olive oil.
Pedro grew up with the traditional agricultural methods and continues them, but now following the most modern standards and with the highest goals. Following all ecological guidelines in cultivating and harvesting olives is therefore more or less taken for granted, since these procedures guarantee the extraordinary quality of the olive oil.
Indeed the oil acquired here is something quite special. The thousand and three** olive trees, some of them well over 200 years old, growing on the 16 hectare area of cultivation at the Finca put forth the olive variety »Lechín de Granada«. It was introduced to Spain by the Moors and especially resistant, especially to wind, dry conditions and frost. As a result it flourishes superbly on our Finca, which is located at about 1,000 metres above sea level. In today’s Andalusia, in relation to the size of the area and the age of its trees, there is no olive grove that can equal this one.
The little black fruit cling firmly to the branches and are difficult to pluck, even by hand. Our olive harvest (with the active support of local friends and many helpers from Austria and Germany) also begins very early – as early as December. As a result the quantity of oil is smaller – annual production is between 800 and 1,500 litres – but the quality of the pale yellow, oil with its sweetish touch, greatly valued by connoisseurs, is all the higher as a result.
* Incidentally, we are talking of the rare, large, heavy-boned Cordoban-Andalusian donkey, whose presence here has made the Finca Unela a recognised »núcleo zoológico«.
** 1003 is of course an approximate number. The number has an indirectly Spanish connotation, referring to the famous Register Aria in Mozart’s opera »Don Giovanni«. The manservant Leporello is counting the many loves of his master using a list he has drawn up himself: in Italy 640, in Germany 231, in France 100, in Turkey 91 ... »ma in Espagna son già mille e tre«: in Spain there are already a thousand and three.