Organic Producers from Puglia Triumph at World Competition

Producers from southwestern Italy overcame Xylella fastidiosa, erratic weather events and the Covid-19 pandemic to produce their award-winning extra virgin olive oils.
Photo: Terradiva Organic Farm
Aug. 2, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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


It is one of the most impor­tant olive oil-pro­duc­ing regions in the world and Puglia is once again one of the regions where pro­duc­ers have seen their brands win the top awards at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Puglian pro­duc­ers had to over­come chal­lenges, includ­ing the impacts of the Covid-19 pan­demic on labor and the mar­ket, the unpre­dictable cli­mate with its extra­or­di­nary weather events such as drought, heat­waves and hail­storms, and the con­tin­ued spread of the deadly Xylella fas­tidiosa pathogen.

Puglia has the best geo-cli­mate for olives: karst ter­rain, two seas, the Ionian and Adriatic, flat iron-rich land, no rain dur­ing sum­mer.- Pier Sante Olivotto, pres­i­dent, Olivottoil Cellino

Those events cou­pled with the alter­nate bear­ing sea­son for the olive trees decreased the over­all Puglian olive yield in 2020, with the har­vest falling 31.7 per­cent.

During the pan­demic period, we have been forced to work even more, because of the inevitable lack of work­force and because nature does not wait,” Antonella Rosati, the owner of Tenuta Foggiali, told Olive Oil Times. Even more, because we had to face and pre­vent the fur­ther spread of the Xylella fas­tidiosa bac­te­ria.”

Tenuta Foggiali is a 12-hectare, 3,000-tree farm founded in 1895, with an estab­lished tra­di­tion of excel­lence in organic grow­ing.

Organic farm­ing and sus­tain­abil­ity are our lifestyle,” Rosati said. The loca­tion of our estate is in the mid­dle of the home­land of mil­len­nial olive trees, which should soon be included among the UNESCO World Heritage sites. We are proud to take care of and pre­serve trees that are up to 2,000 years old.”

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Italy

To fight Xylella fas­tidiosa, pro­tect the trees and pre­serve the envi­ron­ment, we adopted means of pre­ci­sion farm­ing, which allow us to apply rel­e­vant actions such as water­ing or san­i­tary treat­ments only when needed,” she added. Although these devices can­not detect the Xylella bac­te­ria in a tree, they are part of sev­eral imple­men­ta­tion projects.”

Despite these chal­lenges, Tenuta Foggiali earned a Gold Award for its Rosati Fruttato, an organic medium blend.

At the end of the sea­son, we hand­pick each cul­ti­var’s olives sep­a­rately and decide which ones have the char­ac­ter­is­tics to be included in our two blends,” Rosati said. Rosati Fruttato is a blend from dif­fer­ent vari­eties with their own intense tast­ing notes.”

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Photo: Tenuta Foggiali

It is the result of our efforts to bal­ance the strong herba­ceous Pecholine aroma with the robust but appeal­ing Coratina arti­choke after­taste and the inter­est­ing pep­pery note of the Cima di Melfi olives,” she added.

We man­age to reach this result because, as approved tasters who need to keep the palate sharp, we had the chance to sam­ple and appre­ci­ate some of the best Italian olive oils, thus striv­ing to fine-tune our blend­ing as a unique prod­uct,” Rosati con­tin­ued.

Meanwhile, the company’s Rosati Monocultivar Bio won a Silver Award, over­com­ing spe­cific chal­lenges in its pro­duc­tion to tri­umph at the NYIOOC.

We do usu­ally har­vest our Leccino trees at the begin­ning of October, a very sen­si­tive period of the year when tem­per­a­tures stay high, which has hap­pened in recent years, and com­bine with some night­time humid­ity to nur­ture the olive fruit fly,” Rosati said.

That means more work for us: the intense mon­i­tor­ing of the fruits, the deploy­ment of hor­mone-based traps and, in the end, the rush to har­vest as soon as the olives turn pur­ple and keep dru­pes safe from even­tual attacks of the fly,” she added.

The olive oil that comes out of this activ­ity fills us with pride as it offers a unique creamy, full-body char­ac­ter with an almond after­taste, very typ­i­cal of the Leccino grown in our area,” Rosati con­cluded.

With its Gold Award, the De Robertis Chiaroscuro con­firmed its extra­or­di­nary qual­ity for the fourth year in a row.

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Photo: De Robertis Chiaroscuro

We are proud for the care we ded­i­cate to our trees,” Paolo Milicic, co-owner of De Robertis Chiaroscuro, told Olive Oil Times. We have a team of local third and fourth-gen­er­a­tion arborists, spe­cial­ists who deeply under­stand the needs of our Coratina trees and help us ensure that every tree gets pre­cisely the right amount of love and nutri­ents, such as water at the appro­pri­ate time and in the cor­rect vol­umes.”

We are very hon­ored and hum­bled by the recog­ni­tion we have received,” Milicic added. It is very sat­is­fy­ing to see our hard work receive such an award year after year from the panel of inter­na­tional experts.”

Milicic explained how in the face of the pan­demic, his com­pany turned to dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing chan­nels.

The biggest chal­lenge we faced came from the travel restric­tions that lim­ited our abil­ity to explore new mar­kets and meet with clients,” he said. It is hard to have an elec­tronic olive tast­ing at the dis­tance.”

Still, our team man­aged to over­come those hur­dles, devel­oped our online activ­i­ties and man­aged to use tech­nol­ogy to stay in con­tact with our clients and even forge some new excit­ing part­ner­ships over­seas,” Milicic added.

Terradiva Organic Farm was also among the award-win­ning pro­duc­ers at the 2021 NYIOOC, earn­ing Gold for its Allegro con Brio brand, an organic Coratina mono­va­ri­etal.

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Photo: Terradiva Organic Farm

It is a spe­cial extra vir­gin olive oil that comes from a very spe­cific ter­ri­tory, with its own iden­tity, herbal scents and a com­plex fla­vor with bal­anced bit­ter and piquant notes,” owner Angela Lobascio told Olive Oil Times. It is an extra vir­gin olive oil that tells the story of a whole fam­ily and its quest for qual­ity.”

Terradiva has ancient roots in its ter­ri­tory, with the company’s choice to fol­low organic farm­ing pro­to­cols dat­ing back to 1998.

Lobascio said that the work on the olive trees and the approach to mar­ket­ing their extra vir­gin olive oils had to be com­pletely re-orga­nized in the wake of the pan­demic.

We had to face the sus­pen­sion of ship­ments to restau­rants and those small high-qual­ity gas­tro­nomic food shops which did not have orga­nized home deliv­ery ser­vices,” she said.

We have seen grow­ing demand from fam­i­lies, coop­er­a­tive buy­ing groups and pri­vate cus­tomers mostly located in cen­tral and north­ern Italy,” Lobascio added, also ref­er­enc­ing the high num­ber of sales from the com­pa­ny’s online shop with its European cus­tomers.

She explained how dur­ing the pan­demic the direct con­tact and human inter­ac­tion between our fam­ily-owned busi­ness and our clients have become even more rel­e­vant. We have seen peo­ple con­sid­er­ing qual­ity, safety and ori­gin of the food ingre­di­ents they were buy­ing more.”

Meanwhile, near Salento, on Puglia’s east­ern coast with the Ionian Sea, the pro­duc­ers behind Olivottoil Cellino cel­e­brated their Silver Award for a blend that comes from about 900 trees, most of which are about 50 years old.

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Photo: Olivottoil Cellino

Olivottoil Cellino comes from Cellina and Cima di Melfi olives,” Pier Sante Olivotto, the company’s pres­i­dent, told Olive Oil Times. They have been selected to pro­duce a uniquely healthy and tasty extra vir­gin olive oil: Cellina olives for their vit­a­min E and the yel­low color, Pecholine-Cima di Melfi olives for their polyphe­nols and green color.”

Sante Olivotto empha­sized that Olivottoil focuses on the healthy qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil.

We think of extra vir­gin olive oil as the best super­food ever,” he said. Most micronu­tri­ents must be fat-sol­u­ble to become bioavail­able and olive oil is the per­fect vehi­cle to bring them to all the cells in our body after inges­tion.”

Micronutrients come into olives to defend them from insect attacks dur­ing the dry sea­son,” Sante Olivotto said. Polyphenols are in the olives skin to bring the defen­sive bit­ter­ness and toco­pherols into the nuts, which gives life to a new tree.”

Despite the olive trees; nat­ural defenses and health­ful prop­er­ties, Sante Olivotto also empha­sized the urgency required to stop the spread of Xylella fas­tidiosa.

We ask for a call to arms to the world­wide research cen­ters to col­lab­o­rate in help­ing Italy fight­ing the dis­ease that is pro­gres­sively killing the 60 mil­lion olive trees in this region,” he said.

Puglia has the best geo-cli­mate for olives: karst ter­rain, two seas, the Ionian and Adriatic, flat iron-rich land, no rain dur­ing sum­mer. It is located on the 40th par­al­lel, and has 3,000 milling machines,” Sante Olivotto added.

Giovanni Simeone, the owner of the ancient Masseria Fortificata Pavoni, has expanded the tra­di­tional farm founded in the 18th cen­tury.

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Photo: Masseria Fortificata Pavoni

His extra vir­gin olive oils have repeat­edly con­firmed their qual­ity, win­ning top acco­lades at the NYIOOC. In the 2021 edi­tion, the com­pany earned one Gold Award and one Silver Award for a pair of mono­va­ri­etal oils.

My mem­o­ries as a kid are con­nected to the olive trees my grand­fa­ther used to grow, the joy­ful har­vest­ing sea­son, unfor­get­table mem­o­ries for me,” Simeone told Olive Oil Times.

When the Pavoni farm became part of his Masseria, Simeone worked hard to re-con­nect it with the ter­ri­tory.

It has olive trees spread over 20 hectares. The first thing I did was to restore its dig­nity by trans­form­ing the entire oper­a­tion to organic farm­ing,” he said Once we obtained the organic farm­ing cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, I became a cer­ti­fied olive oil taster in Rome.”

Since 2016, we have won Gold Awards at the NYIOOC,” Simeone added. Our olive oils are exam­ined every year by Accredia, which cer­ti­fies their organolep­tic and chem­i­cal qual­i­ties. It is a true pas­sion I hope to com­mu­ni­cate to all my clients.”


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