The Nunez de Prado family have been producing extra virgin olive oil at the Santa Maria mill in the centre of Baena since 1795 and this wealth of experience shows in the quality of the oil. Plaques showing all the awards that the oil has won adorn the wall by the main entrance to the mill. Even today the process is fully traditional, though there is a centrifugal press tucked away for olives that are not of the first class.
After pressing, all the oils are separated from the vegetable water by natural decantation and gravity. As the oil comes to the surface of the first storage bowl it flows over into the next bowl and so on until it is completely clear. The oils are then stored in underground wells.
Although Nunez de Prado is a single estate, it is a very large one; 700 hectares in all, with 100.000 olive trees. The family also owns another large grove with 60.000 olive trees. At harvest time it can take quite a while to find the picking teams, hand picking olives into baskets. All the groves are planted with a mixture of local olives; Picudo for its floral aroma, Hojiblanca for its sweetness and Picual for its bitterness and longevity.
Harvesting, processing and blending may be traditional but there is nothing old fashioned about the running of the estate. Drip irrigation has now been installed in most of the groves and a large hilltop reservoir has been built to store water for times of drought, a recurring problem in this part of Spain. The groves are planned in the modern style with close configurations and single trunk trees, though there are a few of the old three and four trunk trees still in evidence.