`Southern Italian Producers Enjoy Another Strong Showing at World Competition - Olive Oil Times

Southern Italian Producers Enjoy Another Strong Showing at World Competition

Jun. 30, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

Recent News

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


Some of the most rel­e­vant wins for Italian olive oil pro­duc­ers at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition came from the pas­sion­ate work and ded­i­ca­tion of farm­ers in Italy’s south­ern regions.

In Campania and Calabria, where olive oil pro­duc­tion is a tra­di­tion cher­ished by gen­er­a­tions of grow­ers, sev­eral pro­duc­ers won Gold and Silver Awards, con­firm­ing the unique nature of these regions’ olive trees and olive oil fla­vors.

Those two regions have been hit by drought and a series of extreme weather events that strained the agri­cul­ture sec­tor in the past year.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Italy

The Covid-19 pan­demic also com­pli­cated pro­duc­ers’ abil­ity to recruit labor­ers for the har­vest and mar­ket their prod­ucts, which added to what was already one of the most chal­leng­ing years in recent his­tory.

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Photo: Masseria dei Nunzi

According to Italy’s National Institute for Statistics, pro­duc­tion in Campania and Calabria, which is the country’s sec­ond-largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region, fell by 23 per­cent and 22 per­cent in 2020, respec­tively.

The effects of cli­mate change are very real, and man­ag­ing farm­ing oper­a­tions is get­ting harder by the year,” Barbara Bibbò, owner of Masseria dei Nunzi, whose extra vir­gin olive oils won two Gold Awards at the 2021 NYIOOC, told Olive Oil Times.

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Photo: Masseria dei Nunzi

One of the most trou­bling events is rep­re­sented by the inten­sity and uneven dis­tri­b­u­tion of rain­fall dur­ing the year,” she added. 2020 has been char­ac­ter­ized by an excep­tional drought, which led to a drop in pro­duc­tion, even though it allowed us to main­tain the high­est qual­ity level.”

Located in one of the most beau­ti­ful and remote areas of Campania, the Samnium, Masseria dei Nunzi inher­ited a cen­tury-old farm­ing tra­di­tion.

Ancient Romans started cul­ti­vat­ing olives in the Samnium, and Virgil, the poet, ded­i­cated one of his verses in Georgics to the main moun­tain of the area, known as Taburno: Iuvat olea mag­num vestire Taburnum,” which trans­lates to the great Taburno should be dressed in olive groves.”

In the Samnium, olive oil pro­duc­tion comes from an estab­lished cul­ture and is cru­cial for most farm­ing fam­i­lies,” Bibbò said. The fact that our olive oils have won Gold Awards at the 2021 NYIOOC is very impor­tant for us because it con­firms the high qual­ity of our work.”

It also val­i­dates the results of our love for our ter­ri­tory and our trees and the care we deploy through­out the whole process of pro­duc­tion and stor­age,” she added.

Masseria dei Nunzi earned the two Gold Awards for Terra Oleum, a robust blend of Racioppella, Leccio del Corno, Pendolino, Olivella, Ortolana and Leccino olives. The other Gold Award came for the company’s Oleum San Girogrio, a monocul­ti­var Ortice, which is native to Campania and makes up 70 per­cent of the company’s olive groves.

The Terra Oleum name comes from our con­nec­tion to our [endemic] olive trees,” Bibbò said. We believe that every cul­ti­var can fully express its qual­i­ties only in those ter­ri­to­ries where it is a native plant.”

Ortice is renowned for the unique organolep­tic prop­er­ties of its olive oil, but it is also used as table olives,” she added. Harvesting usu­ally hap­pens as soon as the fruit shows signs of ripen­ing and is done by hand to pre­serve the dru­pes from any poten­tial dam­age. Damaged dru­pes could spark unwanted fer­men­ta­tive processes and con­di­tion the final prod­uct.”

Just north­west of Bibbò’s farm in the Samnium, the pro­duc­ers behind Fontana Lupo were also cel­e­brat­ing their sec­ond-con­sec­u­tive Gold Award from the NYIOOC.

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Photo: Fontana Lupo

In the hills sur­round­ing Naples, the Petrazzuoli fam­ily man­ages olive orchards that extend for about seven hectares between Ruviano and Caiazzo, also in Campania. Situated at an ele­va­tion of 500 meters, the groves are pro­tected by neigh­bor­ing woods and main­tained by the Petrazzuoli fam­ily for gen­er­a­tions.

Our land has always been at the heart of my fam­ily so that we know its his­tory and also know how the ter­ri­tory has been cared for,” Giovanni Petrazzuoli, the company’s owner, told Olive Oil Times.

This inti­mate knowl­edge of the land gives the Petrazzuoli fam­ily a com­pet­i­tive advan­tage, he argued, allow­ing them to safe­guard the trees’ health bet­ter and care­fully observe what is hap­pen­ing in the olive groves. The cen­turies-old olive grow­ing tra­di­tion of the fam­ily even affected its sur­name.

The Petrazzuoli fam­ily has an ancient his­tory dat­ing back to the 12th cen­tury, a period in which the Prince of Capua entrusted the care of their land to some mem­bers of the Petra fam­ily who, with rec­og­nized mas­tery, began the pro­duc­tion of olive oil,” Petrazzuoli said.

Petra’s oil, already renowned at that time, con­tributed to the mod­i­fi­ca­tion of the fam­ily name, from Petra to Petra-zzu-Oli, enclos­ing in the name the olive-grow­ing tra­di­tion of the fam­ily,” he added.

To this day, the fam­ily con­tin­ues to uti­lize only tra­di­tional har­vest­ing and pro­duc­tion meth­ods in their olive groves.

Among the prac­tices they con­tinue to fol­low is the use of green manure to nour­ish the trees, a tech­nique that dates back to the 19th-cen­tury.

We fer­til­ize the soil by plant­ing legu­mi­nous plants at the foot of the olive trees, which fix nitro­gen taken from the atmos­phere in their roots,” Pettrazzuoli said.

Once the beans have been plowed, the refuse of the plants decom­poses into the soil, and the roots of the olive trees absorb the nitro­gen.

However, one of the most unique aspects of the area is the abun­dance of spring water. The name of the Gold-win­ning Fontana Lupo, or Wolf Fountain, comes from the habit of local wolves com­ing out from the woods dur­ing the hot sum­mers and drink water from a nearby foun­tain.

The foun­tain is still here and work­ing,” Petrazzuoli said. Fontana Lupo is a medium blend made from the Ortice, Caiazzana and Frantoio cul­ti­vars.

At the top of the neigh­bor­ing region of Calabria, the pro­duc­ers behind Donato Parisis Olio di Calabria Organic PGI won a Gold Award, once again con­firm­ing the high qual­ity of the com­pa­ny’s extra vir­gin olive oils.

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The team behind Donato Parisi (OOT Archive)

Following organic pro­duc­tion pro­to­cols allows us the oppor­tu­nity to safe­guard bio­di­ver­sity and offer the con­sumer a cer­ti­fied pro­duc­tion chain, which demon­strates that the olive oil does not con­tain syn­thetic chem­i­cal fer­til­iz­ers or pes­ti­cides that are haz­ardous to human health,” Enrico Parisi, the company’s owner, told Olive Oil Times.

The mono­va­ri­etal Gold Award-win­ning olive oil comes from the Tondina cul­ti­var, which is native to Calabria.

Tondina offers a har­monic sen­so­r­ial pro­file with green fruiti­ness and notes of grass, leaves, arti­choke and ripe tomato,” Parisi said. Our selec­tion is expressed by the Protected Geographical Indication of Calabria, which is the ideal syn­the­sis of native cul­ti­vars, cli­mate and land­scape.”

Parisi believes that the true chal­lenge for olive oil pro­duc­ers is to enhance con­sumers’ knowl­edge of extra vir­gin olive oil fur­ther.

We should also work to let con­sumers learn how to cor­rectly read the olive oil labels, since many still con­sider extra vir­gin olive oil a mere ingre­di­ent while it is, instead, a food spe­cialty,” he said.

However, things are chang­ing, Parisi added, as more con­sumers choose high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils. He empha­sized that the Farm to Fork strat­egy of the European Union is des­tined to impact the whole pro­duc­tion chain.

Still, we need to focus on 100-per­cent Italian olive oil, whereas in Italy, the national pro­duc­tion is sig­nif­i­cantly less than the total con­sump­tion,” Parisi said. That is why pro­duc­ers’ orga­ni­za­tions might favor a grow­ing coop­er­a­tion to reach all together com­mon goals.”

Located on the hills of one of the most breath­tak­ing areas of Calabria, the Frisina Regenass fam­ily earned a Gold Award for its Olio Frisina, a mono­va­ri­etal Carolea, a native cul­ti­var that has dot­ted the Calabrian hills for cen­turies.

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Photo: Frisina Regenass family

The main chal­lenge for the fam­ily is once again main­tain­ing their high-qual­ity pro­duc­tion despite the chal­lenges cre­ated by cli­mate change.

The har­vest­ing sea­son has gone well, but we must keep an eye to the high tem­per­a­tures, as they’ve con­tin­ued to rise in the last few years,” Anita Regenass, the company’s owner, told Olive Oil Times.

Life for those who grow the fruits of the land has always been hard, and it will always be,” she added. The repeated extreme weather events make it even more dif­fi­cult.”

According to Regenass, most con­sumers do not real­ize what it means to work in times of cli­mate change.

Agriculture should be described in greater detail to the con­sumers,” Regenass said. They do not really know what is behind a food prod­uct and do not under­stand its value.”

Climate change for us is not going to be a direct men­ace, but it is an incom­ing chal­lenge for pro­duc­tion,” she added. Recently-devel­oped and tested cool­ing tech­niques and tech­nolo­gies will have to be deployed.”

Regenass believes that the qual­ity of the com­pa­ny’s flag­ship olive oil has been main­tained through the years despite these chal­lenges due to the spe­cial care the grow­ers put in every sin­gle step of the pro­duc­tion.

What you need is the cru­cial advanced tech­nol­ogy of the oil mill, but the trick is in doing the best you can through­out all pro­duc­tion stages, from the olive trees to stor­age,” Regenass said.

Obtaining high-qual­ity olive oil from the Carolea cul­ti­var is a true chal­lenge, Regenass empha­sized.

Growing Carolea is not an easy task, given its sen­si­tiv­ity to fungi infes­ta­tions, to the fruit fly and to its ten­dency to alter­nate on and off pro­duc­tion years,” she said. Still, Carolea olive oil is very har­monic, with no excess notes, and the con­sumer really appre­ci­ates it.”

Back in the Campania region, in the heart of one of Italy’s many UNESCO World Heritage sites, the pro­duc­ers behind La Casa del Sole cel­e­brated their Silver Award from the 2021 NYIOOC.

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Photo: La Casa del Sole

We har­vest our olives one by one by hand, not even using a comb,” Margherita Romio-Persico, the company’s owner, told Olive Oil Times. Our tra­di­tion is to con­stantly mon­i­tor how the dru­pes develop and ripen so as imme­di­ately to inter­vene if any pathogen should arise.”

Located in Cilento National Park, La Casa del Sole has pro­duced high-qual­ity organic extra vir­gin olive oil for decades. The com­pany pro­duced its award-win­ning medium blend from Leccino, Frantoio and Rotondella olives.

Our goal has always been to pro­duce a fine organic olive oil, with our fam­i­lies being its first con­sumers,” Romio-Persico said. The organic choice might be penal­iz­ing the vol­umes of the pro­duc­tion, but it favors the envi­ron­ment and the quest for qual­ity.”

In the hills of the company’s pic­turesque loca­tion, right by the renowned Amalfi coast­line, the lat­est sea­son has gone bet­ter than else­where in the region but did not reach its full poten­tial.

We con­sider the 2020 sea­son an aver­age har­vest­ing sea­son, con­di­tioned by the drought,” Romio-Persico said. While we do not know what we may expect for the incom­ing sea­son, we know we will have to keep an eye on pathogens and drought.”


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