`Olivier Baussan's Première Pression - Olive Oil Times

Olivier Baussan's Première Pression

May. 10, 2011
Alice Alech

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Anyone in Paris can now buy good qual­ity Provençal olive oil from six ded­i­cated olive oil shops in the cap­i­tal. At Première Pression Provençal, (First Pressed Provence) cus­tomers dis­cover the lesser-known olive regions of the Provence, expe­ri­ence the nuances of vert, noire et mûr (green black and ripe) olive oil from thirty-two Provençal pro­duc­ers, and can even com­pose their own vari­a­tions of olive oil.

At the helm of this new enter­prise is Olivier Baussan cre­ator of the suc­cess­ful nat­ural cos­metic com­pany L’Occitane. Baussan, also the cre­ator of the Mediterranean spe­cialty retailer Olivier &Co, has always loved olive oil. Now he wants to share that pas­sion and his own Provençal cul­ture while pro­vid­ing a new out­let for olive pro­duc­ers to sell their fine extra vir­gin oils.

It’s a wel­come boost for olive oil pro­duc­ers in the south of France. Although the qual­ity of French olive oil is widely regarded among the best in the world, France pro­duces much less olive oil than com­peti­tors Spain and Italy, and France processes only three per­cent of its fruit for oil.

Baussan is an expert in olive oil; he has been involved in olive oil busi­ness since 1996 when he set up Oliviers & Co. His sup­pli­ers, mostly from France, Spain and Italy were small fam­i­lies and coop­er­a­tives who fol­lowed pre­cise meth­ods of cul­ti­va­tion and pro­duc­tion. When he left the com­pany eight years ago, Oliviers & Co boasted 85 shops world­wide.

He cre­ated L’Eco Musée de l’olivier in Volx in Upper Provence in 2006, a museum ded­i­cated to Mediterranean olive farm­ing and tra­di­tional lifestyle. Using inter­ac­tive and audio­vi­sual tools, vis­i­tors learn all about olive oil cul­ture and also get a chance to taste dif­fer­ent olive oils and prod­ucts. Baussan opened the first Premiere Pression shop at the museum in his native Provence.

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He says the olive trees of the Provence make up more than the land­scape. They are the sub­stance for the sto­ries of men and women who live in har­mony with the land. It’s shar­ing these encoun­ters and the desire to cre­ate ties that drove me to the olive fields in search of deli­cious dis­cov­er­ies.”

Baussan sees First Press Provence as a form of com­merce where the dis­trib­u­tor is not con­sid­ered as the mid­dle man but more as a link between pro­ducer and a con­sumer Both the domaine and the producer’s name are included on the labels of the con­tain­ers.

The shops are more than just stores, they’re a learn­ing expe­ri­ence.

Touch screens with pho­tos, texts and cards take vis­i­tors on a vir­tual trip to Provence, to the region, the pro­ducer and the fruit. They learn how the land, the cli­mate, the olives and the know-how can influ­ence the tastes, col­ors and aro­mas of the oil.

What are the tra­di­tional Provençal fla­vors accord­ing to Première Pression?

— A slight pep­pery taste, with an aroma of fresh arti­chokes with fruity green’, when the olives are picked early and processed within 24 hrs.

— Aromas of red fruit and a hint of lime with fruity ripe’ when the fruit is ripe, black and processed imme­di­ately.

— A fruity black’ fla­vor is obtained when the olives are picked and stored for a few days at the mill before being processed. The aroma and taste are quite dif­fer­ent to the other two; this is a sweet olive oil with tangs of mush­rooms, dried fruit and even some cocoa. Producers of fruity black are proud of their oil. One expert Provençal olive oil pro­ducer said that fer­men­ta­tion is a del­i­cate process, one of sen­su­al­ity and intu­ition where you can’t just fol­low the instruc­tions; you have to feel it in your heart.”

Baussan said that although Provençal pro­duc­ers can­not com­pete with Italians and Spanish pro­duc­ers in terms of quan­tity, he feels that oils from the Provence will have a niche mar­ket in the future. They have the geo­graphic qual­i­ties of the Provence, the exper­tise and the rich Provençal tra­di­tions.

Browsing and choos­ing olive oil is fun at the sleek First Press Provence shops; thirty-two labels in thirty-two col­ors rep­re­sent­ing the thirty-two pro­duc­ers are on show. Customers bring their own bot­tles and fill up using the ele­gant l’orgue aux huiles, designed by Baussan for fill­ing bot­tles. Made of glass it resem­bles an organ and will hold 10 liters or so of olive oil.

Customers pay 22 euros for a liter of bulk olive oil, and eight euros for a 250 ml. stain­less steel can. Gift boxes of olive oil are also on offer along with other regional spe­cial­ties like tape­nade made from green and black olives with exotic names such as Pulpe de Salonenque and Pulpe de Picholine.

Premère Pression Provence has just opened their first over­seas store in Hong Kong.

Paris is a pri­or­ity. We have just opened our first shop in Asia and we will no doubt be con­tin­u­ing to develop the mar­ket slowly. New York would be a fine des­ti­na­tion. Our box sets of three olive oils from the Provence are sold at Dean & Deluca,” he said.

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