By Alice Alech
Olive Oil Times Contributor | Reporting from Vidauban, France
Olives and olive oil produced in the beautiful sundrenched island of Corsica are without doubt, part of the grand world of olive growing.
The island, known as Ile de la Beauté has huge areas of olive trees some more than 2, 000 years old but in the past, for too long, Corsicans were busy dealing with frequent invasions, conquests and fight for independence to tend to their olives.
Today, however, thanks to the demand and appreciation of good quality olive oil, young and older Corsicans are managing their orchards with pride and
developing their olive oil with passion.
In Corsica, olives are harvested only when they are black and ripe; this makes Olive oil from Corsica, or Oliu di Corsica, mostly mild; they are described as having a moderate level of bitterness and pungency with various aromas.
As in mainland France, many producers here aim for Appellation Contrôlée designation, the French certificate of L’Institut National de L’origine Et de Qualité.
This AOC French certificate is a guarantee that the olive oil produced is of high quality and comes only from Corsica. In keeping with recent changes by the European Commission; the AOC logo will be replaced by the European equivalent, Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) as from July 2012.
One of Corsica’s successful young producers, Sandrine Marfisi has already started using the Appellation D’Origine Protégée label.
When Sandrine started maintaining the family’s plot as a hobby, she had no idea she would be become so enthused in olives and olive oil production. In 2002, she and her husband Patrick moved to North West Corsica near the Bay of St. Florent. Here in the idyllic location facing the Mediterranean, they planted 200 trees of variety Germaine Casinca; this was the variety introduced by the
Genoese during their occupation of the island in the seventeenth century.
The Marfisi’s sold their first oil under their own label, Aliva Mari, as early as 2006. Today, their extra virgin olive oil is a pure fruit juice harvested by hand and immediately pressed in their own mill without any additives and without filtration.
“It’s great having our own mill here on the property. We used it for the first time in October this year. It makes such a difference to the quality; we work slowly but surely, aiming at producing quality rather than quantity,” said Sandrine.
“I’m not looking to make the best olive oil in the market or to increase the areas that we grow; our goal is to produce the best possible olive oil, respecting the tradition of olive oil from Corsica.
We strive personally at all stages of production. The Orchards are meticulously maintained throughout the year to produce one of the finest qualities of olives Germaine, with one of the best yields in the region” she added.
Sandrine and Patrick are the first growers to start harvesting each season in Corsica.
At the Marfisi’s domaine, nets are placed on the grounds, then, by using an electric comb or by hand the olives are allowed to drop into the net. Olives are picked when they are black (respecting PDO conditions) and crushed the day after harvest to avoid fermentation.
Sandrine and Patrick believe it’s better to pick the olives before they are completely ripe and fall to the ground.
“This allows us to have more vegetal type of oil,” explained Sandrine.
Aliva Marina olive oil is sold between 16 and 19 euros (about $21 to $25) per bottle at the domaine and in selected food shops in Corsica and mainland France.
In Sollacaro, south of Corsica Mr. Paul Luccioni has a different approach to olive growing, a traditional manner. Paul started producing olive oil when he retired.
“My olive trees are old, very old, about 400 to 500 years old. My orchard is small with only about 150 trees and like 80 % of growers here, I am a traditional olive grower,” he said.
Paul explained that as a traditional olive grower with old trees he can only harvest every two years and that he collects his olives using traditional methods using nets which are emptied twice a week.
Once collected and cleaned Paul takes his olives to a nearby mill to be weighed and crushed.
He describes his olive oil as gentle and fruity.
He too has the AOC label on his olive oil which is distributed and sold only in Corsica.
“The first priority for the AOC l’ Huile of Corsica label is the acidity test,” he said . “It must not exceed 1.5 grammes per 100 grammes of oil.”
Control by AOC conditions takes place the same week the olive oil has been produced. Samples are collected from his domaine, tested for acidity and tasted by the jury within a week.
Here in Corsica you feel that the olive tree is a tree of life. Old trees are being cleaned, pruned and brought back to productivity. Young producers are rising to the challenge and planting new olive trees to give a fresh impetus to the olive oil industry. The people of Corsica are proud of their olive oil culture.
Visit l’Aliva Marina Corsican extra virgin olive oil.