Northern Italian Producers Share Secrets of Success at World Olive Oil Competition

A unique climate paired with a focus on local varieties helped propel producers from across the north of the country to success at the 2021 NYIOOC.
Photo: Paolo Forelli
Aug. 13, 2021
Ylenia Granitto

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Part of our con­tin­u­ing spe­cial cov­er­age of the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.


Once again this year, pro­duc­ers from north­ern Italy cel­e­brated an array of Gold and Silver Awards for their high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Producers from Liguria, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna helped Italy achieve record suc­cess at the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion.

We want to pro­duce high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil and also to present our place to the world.- Chiara Del Vecchio, pro­duc­tion man­ager, Palazzo di Varignana

This recog­ni­tion is the result of an extra­or­di­nary sea­son,” Massimiliano Consolo, the busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ager of Agraria Riva del Garda, told Olive Oil Times. I can say that, in quan­ti­ta­tive terms, we had the best har­vest of the last 20 years.”

Founded in 1926, the pro­ducer behind the Gold Award-win­ning Garda Trentino PDO Uliva brand later became a coop­er­a­tive. Since 2008, Agraria Riva del Garda has focused on pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oil, wine and other tra­di­tional local prod­ucts.

With 330 mem­bers, of which almost 100 are olive oil pro­duc­ers, the com­pany is located in Riva del Garda, in the province of Trento. The coop­er­a­tive man­ages 85,000 trees on approx­i­mately 270 hectares. Overall in Trento, there are an esti­mated 1,200 olive grow­ers from a dozen of munic­i­pal­i­ties.

Sharing our qual­ity vision, the farm­ers who use our mill have spe­cific char­ac­ter­is­tics,” Consolo said. When it comes to har­vest­ing, the oper­a­tions, which should be car­ried out in 45 days, require a detailed and coor­di­nated effort from the grow­ers.”

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Photo: Agraria Riva del Garda

There is care­ful orga­ni­za­tion through­out the year and the entire pro­duc­tion process, from the mea­sures taken in the grove to the time of fruit col­lect­ing,” he added. Our sup­pli­ers receive pay­ment accord­ing to the qual­ity of their fruits, and this allows us to reach very high stan­dards.”

The fruits are then pressed in the state-of-the-art facil­ity sit­u­ated at the cooperative’s head­quar­ters.

The main vari­eties cul­ti­vated by the cooperative’s farm­ers on the north­ern banks of Lake Garda are Casaliva, Frantoio and Leccino, which have accli­ma­tized over time to the tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions caused by the area’s geo­graph­i­cal posi­tion.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Italy

In this part of north­ern Italy, weather com­ing from the Alps is mit­i­gated by the breezes of Lake Garda, cre­at­ing a micro­cli­mate that has sus­tained olive oil pro­duc­tion here since Roman times.

We are located on the 46th par­al­lel, where veg­e­ta­tive devel­op­ment occurs about a month later than in the south­ern Italian regions,” Consolo said. The har­vest takes place in late October, and it is still early to make fore­casts, but we are aware that we prob­a­bly see the effects of alter­na­tion on vol­umes, while qual­ity always remains our pri­or­ity.”

Our new project is the cre­ation of a space ded­i­cated to hos­pi­tal­ity,” he added. We are very keen to show our com­pany, our mill, and our land to our cus­tomers, who will have the oppor­tu­nity to see the work and ded­i­ca­tion that lie behind our qual­ity up close.”

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Photo: Agraria Riva del Garda

Just a short dis­tance north­east of Lake Garda, in the Veneto region, the pro­ducer behind Le Creve crafts his Gold-Award win­ning Garda PDO oil.

It was a great sat­is­fac­tion to receive this recog­ni­tion,” Paolo Forelli told Olive Oil Times. Our oil has hints of almond, which this year is extra­or­di­nary, and a note of cof­fee that, when it devel­ops, is a sign that we have made a good prod­uct.”

In Malcesine, his cen­tury-old olive trees are arranged on small plots scat­tered across the land­scape, from the plains to the hills, up to 400 meters above sea level.

These are ancient groves with 120 or 130 plants per hectare,” he said. The largest par­cel con­tains 200 trees, for a total of 600 trees of the Casaliva vari­ety on about four hectares of land, which my fam­ily has man­aged since we set­tled in this beau­ti­ful town in the province of Verona 40 years ago.”

The com­pany was estab­lished by Forelli’s par­ents, Mario and Enza, in 1982, when they founded a restau­rant their sons now man­age. The eatery spe­cial­izes in spit-fire meat, with ample out­door tables sur­rounded by olive trees.

Since 2014, we have been mem­bers of the Garda PDO Consortium of which we share the inno­v­a­tive and inter­est­ing ideas that aim to pro­mote and enhance our qual­ity,” Forelli said. Our vision includes com­pletely sus­tain­able man­age­ment of the orchard.

Therefore, with the sup­port of an agron­o­mist, hard work and ded­i­ca­tion, I treat the trees only with spe­cific prod­ucts that rein­vig­o­rate them and make them health­ier and less sus­cep­ti­ble to pests, with the low­est envi­ron­men­tal impact.”

The farm’s prox­im­ity to the Alps endows it with an attrac­tive land­scape and a favor­able cli­mate. Cool air blows down from Monte Baldo and results in ideal tem­per­a­ture vari­a­tions for the devel­op­ment of the plants. Last win­ter, they even were cov­ered in 15 cen­time­ters of snow.

Overall, the 2020/21 crop year was char­ac­ter­ized by a favor­able cli­mate, with pre­cip­i­ta­tion at the right moment and in proper quan­ti­ties. This led to an excep­tional har­vest in qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive terms and helped pre­vent olive fruit fly attacks.

My prod­ucts must be good and healthy because my fam­ily, start­ing with my six-year-old daugh­ter, are the first con­sumers,” Forelli said. I want to leave a healthy land to my chil­dren, and I hope that they may con­tinue to run our farm and restau­rant with the same val­ues of respect for this ter­ri­tory.”

To the south of Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto is the region of Emilia-Romagna. Famous for its lux­ury vehi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers and Rennaisance cities, the region is also home to Palazzo di Varignana, which earned two Gold Awards at the 2021 NYIOOC for its Nostrana di Brisighella and Correggiolo mono­va­ri­etals.

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Photo: Palazzo di Varignana

Our farm was founded in 2015 with the aim of bring­ing olive farm­ing back to the hills south of the Via Emilia,” Chiara Del Vecchio, the company’s pro­duc­tion man­ager, told Olive Oil Times. When we started imple­ment­ing our project, one of the main objec­tives was to enhance the autochtho­nous vari­eties of Emilia-Romagna.”

Located in Varignana, a ham­let of Castel San Pietro Terme, near Bologna, the prop­erty com­prises 360 hectares of agri­cul­tural land, of which 150 hectares are cov­ered by an olive grove of 150,000 trees.

About 70 hectares are planted with the native Ghiacciola and Nostrana vari­eties, while the other half of the orchard is ded­i­cated to non-endemic vari­eties, includ­ing Maurino, Frantoio and Leccino.

We want to pro­duce high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil and also to present our place to the world,” Del Vecchio said, empha­siz­ing the strong ter­ri­to­r­ial iden­tity of their prod­ucts. Their labels invoke ancient toponyms such as Vargnano, which is the medieval name of the vil­lage where the com­pany is located, and Stiffonte [the Correggiolo mono­va­ri­etal], an ancient local river.

All we did was rein­tro­duce olive tree cul­ti­va­tion, which was prac­ticed on these hills until the sec­ond half of the 18th cen­tury when it was inter­rupted by an unfa­vor­able change in the cli­mate,” Del Vecchio said.

Starting from a grove with 300 his­toric plants at the core of our resort, we founded the farm focus­ing on qual­ity, which means har­vest­ing at the right time and crush­ing the olives within a few hours in an oil mill of the lat­est gen­er­a­tion,” she added.

So far, the com­pany has relied on a local facil­ity but soon plans to open its own mill. Due to a short­age of raw mate­ri­als and delays result­ing from the Covid-19 pan­demic, the mill will not be oper­a­tional until 2023.

The project com­bines hos­pi­tal­ity, with a resort and some vil­las, and agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tions, includ­ing a 42-hectare vine­yard with inter­na­tional and native vari­eties such as Pignoletto, Albana, Sangiovese and Malbo.

Not only have we set up a busi­ness with the olive tree cul­ti­va­tion, but our pri­mary goal is to spread this cul­ture,” Del Vecchio said.

Every aspect of our activ­ity revolves around oil, from the orga­ni­za­tion of tast­ings for our guests to the table set­ting in our restau­rant, which includes a tast­ing glass and oleo­cen­tric recipes,” she con­cluded. We do not sim­ply add oil, but we do cre­ate the recipes around the oils. Our main pur­pose is really to pro­mote the cul­ture of extra vir­gin olive oil.”


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