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Olives from the Azapa Valley

The olive groves create an idyllic and timeless landscape. In ancient times olive oil was called a "liquid gold". Today we cannot imagine a healthy and rich cuisine without olives and olive oil. I invite you to a trip to Azapa Valley, where the best Chilean olives grow.

By Ania Smolec / March 06, 2015
Wine Journalist

The Azapa Valley is a beautiful oasis east of Arica town. Arica is the northernmost city of Chile, 19 km south of the border with Peru. It is a major port with a pleasant and spontaneous architecture. Unlike most Chilean cities, life is not centered here around the main square, but around Avenida 21 Mayo, a mostly pedestrian street full of shops, restaurants and cafés. The center of Arica is nice, with long beaches, gardens, and extensive networks of sand dunes, all nearby. Rearing up to the south is El Morro, the rock that marks the end of the Chilean coastal range.

Going up on the way within mainland you will find these green olive groves of Azapa Valley and more. Its main town is San Miguel de Azapa, where is the Archaeological and Anthropological Museum, which houses the world’s oldest mummies. There are several archaeological sites in the area, presenting pre-Columbian history. A good place to watch the valley and take good pictures is the Llosyas Mirador, which provides both an overview of the Azapa Valley groves and is close to archaeological sites.

Azapa Valley is famous for the production of guava, mango, banana and papaya. But the most known product not only nationally but also globally are olives that are called Azapa olives (violet and bitter taste).

Healthy, balanced, full of colors and flavors diet has its roots in the Mediterranean region. Nutritionists and chefs look to the Greek, French, Spanish or Italian recipes. And a common denominator to all sides of this region is olive and olive oil. You can enjoy the simplest forms of consummation of the fruits of olive tree as fettunata (bread, garlic, olive oil, salt), bruschetta with basil, tomato, olive oil, salt, fougasse- a French bread with olive or just chop olives with cheese and wine as a rich appetizer.

Aceitunas2Do olives match with wine? Yes, but it all depends on which way they are and which other ingredients. If you are going to serve merely olives with some cheese, bread, nuts, a matching will be Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc. But if olives are part of a more elaborate recipe -for example some animal protein-, the marriage must be more careful. Take black olives and try to incorporate in various dishes. If it is a risotto with olives your wine will be Marques de Casa Concha Pais Cinsault, if you decide to eat a pizza with tomato sauce and olives your wine will be Marques de Casa Concha Merlot.

As we know the protein is predominant in paring, so you can enjoy a roasted chicken with olives with Casillero Diablo Shiraz Rose, but a duck with olives asks for another wine. In this case it is Marques de Casa Concha Pinot Noir. And if your menu is a fillet of beef seasoned with olives, your answer will be Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon.

I would like to present a classic recipe called tapenade, based on black olives and capers, which comes from Provencal cuisine (in Occitan dialect tapena is the name of capers). In ancient time it was a basic form of this paste, as a mixture of chopped olives with olive oil. A very similar recipe based on olives and capers in Catalonia is called olivada. Tapenade that we know today is an invention of chef Meynier from the restaurant La Maison Dorée in Marseille in 1880. It can be served as an appetizer with toast; although in small amounts can be used also for seasoning various dishes as roast chicken, boiled eggs, etc. A great pairing for bread with tapenade is a sparkling wine as Subercaseaux Extra Brut. A wine which, like Azapa olives, gives us flavor, intensity and elegance.

Original recipe for tapenade



  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 200 g of capers
  • 100 g anchovy fillets in oil
  • 200g pitted black olives
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil


  1. Wash the capers and dry with a cloth, also dry the fillets and chop finely.
  2. In a blender put garlic, capers, anchovies, olives, thyme and reduce to a puree.
  3. Add olive oil to make a thick paste that can be extended.
  4. Season with pepper and lemon juice.

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