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Olives are scary. Or at least that’s what they want you to think. Are they a fruit or vegetable? Fruit. What do they taste like? It depends. Today, we’re breaking them down. Have fun pairing them with wine thanks to this handy guide to olives.

guide to olives

Our Guide to Olives

A lot of what distinguishes olives for the purpose of charcuterie and cheese boards comes down to the way their prepared, brined, served and presented. Choosing the right one to serve with the cheese and crackers in your shopping cart is an art form. Pair to compare, as I’ve been told, bring like things together to make something beautiful. This helpful guide is going to break down the different olive choices available to you. If you’re asking yourself, what olives should you serve with wine, what olives to serve with salami, and which olives are the most popular, this guide is most certainly for you. Wondering what type of olive to buy? Perusw our selections. You’ll want to have the block raving about your magazine-cover rivaling charcuterie spreads. Read on brave sommelier!  


The olives that we serve at the table are classified into 3 generalized categories. These essentially discern between how ripe they are, or when they’re picked from their branches. Those are Green, Semirpie, and Black olives. Green olives are picked at their least-ripe, but fully grown stage. Semi Ripe are picked just as the olives have began their journey into ripening, and black olives are picked once they are purple, brown or black in color and have completed ripening. Before they head off to your local grocery store, deli or restaurant they have one more step to go through.

Fermentation is they key driving force behind many of our favorite things. Beer, wine, cheese, bread, buttermilk, cocoa, yogurt, soy sauce and vinegar are just a few of the most common household favorites that fermentation plays a role in. We cure olives during this process because they are practically inedible after they are picked. Extremely bitter, they don’t make much good use for anything. During this stage, curing makes the olives delicious. Different methods of brining including salt and lye, and aim to alter the compounds of the original fruit.

Let’s Get Down to Basics

These are going to serve as your baseline, some go-to’s, if you will. These are surefire crowd pleasers that will give you the edge on Stacy’s (sorry Stacy) soirees. Grab your cutting board, your shopping list and let’s get ready to lay it all out. These are the best olives for wine and cheese.


Speaking of basics, these are some of the most ubiquitous table olives out there. A popular snacking olive, the Castelvetrano is known for its somewhat mild flavor, making it a good pickup olive for starters. If you’re introducing someone to olives as an addition to their tasting session, consider adding a dish of these to reel them in. Meaty, and hardly ripened before they’re cured, these olives are bit sweeter in taste, and are definitely a good place to start.  


You’ve had a Greek salad before. These are those. Yes they’re absolutely delicious, and another great start olive for the uninitiated, mostly because they’ve probably already had them before if we’re being honest here. Lovingly salty, and an all around great olive. A purplish or burgundy in color, these little flavor bombs are the key to success, and will compliment just about any wine choice rather well. Greece is home to these little guys, and they’ll tell you there’s nothing quite like them. The reason they pair so well with wine, (remember pair to compare!) is that their red wine vinegar curing gives them a similar taste profile.


Large and buttery. The profile of these bad boys makes them the number one contender for stuffing, usually with cheese. In this case, you can consider them a very safe choice for your cheese spreads. If you’re looking for which olive goes well with cheese, this is the one. It’s also got a more mild taste which makes it a great charcuterie choice.

Dry-Cured Gaeta

Dry cured means that the olive has been cured with lots of salt, and then later soaked in olive oil. They can also be seasoned, which is mostly likely how you’ll find them at your local grocery store’s wine bar (all good ones have them, and make sure they’re sitting in brine!)


These purpleish olives are a well known heavy hitter. Soaked in red wine after they’re cured in brine, they are bursting at the seams with juice. Somewhat sour, they’ll pair great with, you guessed it, red wine! (You’re really getting the hang of this!) This might be the most versatile choice for your high-end wine and cheese spread. Give them a whirl, they might just become your new favorite.


These dry-cured delicacies are the black horse of our list here, but give them a try if you really want to woo your hoity toity wine tasting guests. I’d recommend serving these on a dish with some roasted red peppers and some fancy olive oil, (you’ll find these all in one trip at an upscale grocer.) Packed with flavor!

Guide to olives: Some Tips

Brine, Brine & Brine. Make sure these babies stay in their natural home; a bunch of brine. If not, they’ll dry out. This means scooping some of that lucious liquid along with them into their plastic container at the olive bar, or making your own concoction. (4 Tbps salt to 4 cups of water, boil until the salt dissolves and then cool, scale to your needs… you’re welcome). Secondly, know your stuff! This means, well… reading this article great job! Wow your friends with some knowledge about how their delectable treat came to be. The last, is to try different things. Get adventurous, most places will let you sample their olive varieties before buying them, so go ahead and try something new!

guide to olives


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