` Pieralisi Extraction Systems: Made in Italy (Really) - Olive Oil Times

Pieralisi Extraction Systems: Made in Italy (Really)

Jun 9, 2010 1:11 PM EDT
Lucy Vivante

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All of Pieralisi’s machines are made in Jesi. The machines are made from scratch, that is, they buy steel and stain­less steel and cast and machine the sys­tems. I don’t exactly know why I’m sur­prised by this, but I am. Just as plau­si­ble to me would be their design­ing machines to their spec­i­fi­ca­tions, assem­bling, mar­ket­ing and ser­vic­ing them. Maybe it’s too many years fac­ing a com­puter screen in New York City, or the idea that Asia is where things are made. But, no they make them here, and there is some­thing weirdly mov­ing and pos­i­tive about this.

Gennaro Pieralisi on the cur­rent econ­omy says The cri­sis is felt, and felt a lot. Many com­pa­nies are in a dif­fi­cult posi­tion. The cri­sis isn’t felt by what I call the pro­tected: state work­ers, postal employ­ees, police­men, the mil­i­tary. The brunt of the cri­sis is felt by work­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers. Manufacturers who make goods for the global mar­ket.” I ask him if he’s reduced employ­ees and Pieralisi says We haven’t laid any­one off. We’ve had to reduce tem­po­rary work­ers and fur­lough some peo­ple. We try not to lay any­one off, not only for the busi­ness, but also for human­i­tar­ian rea­sons. We just can’t send peo­ple home. It’s like cut­ting off a leg, you only do it if you absolutely have to, in order to save the patient.” Jesi is bet­ter off than the nearby city of Fabriano, where there are fac­to­ries pro­duc­ing home appli­ances and where the eco­nomic cri­sis has seen a lot of peo­ple laid off.

I ask him whether pri­vate equity has tried to buy his com­pany and whether he’s thought of going pub­lic. He says that every once and awhile peo­ple come and try to buy the com­pany. He dis­likes the men­tal­ity of build­ing a com­pany to sell it, explain­ing that in Italy com­pa­nies have an eter­nal life” in the col­lec­tive imag­i­na­tion, and are thought of with affec­tion. He says that peo­ple go pub­lic only if they’re in dif­fi­culty. Otherwise, nobody sells. The Ingegnere takes a par­tic­u­larly dim view of what he calls arti­sans of stock deals.”

Gruppo Pieralisi’s wine can­tina and olive oil fran­toio sit on a large hill, the geo­graphic loca­tion is called Monte Schiavo. Their brand is called Monte Schiavo, although it’s some­times writ­ten as one word (Monte Schiavo lit­er­ally means Slave Mountain and one can only imag­ine the jok­ing that must go on among employ­ees.) It is much more a hill than a moun­tain and it lies about 5 km. out­side of Jesi. After the meet­ing with the Ingegnere, I’m dri­ven here for a tour of the fran­toio and the Monte Schiavo store, where wine, olive oil, and cos­met­ics made from olive oil are sold. The Gruppo Pieralisi own 42,000 olive trees and vine­yards which pro­duce 1,800,000 bot­tles of wine a year. The Ingegnere says that he does­n’t want to com­pete with his clients, those who buy olive oil extrac­tion machin­ery, so the extra-vir­gin olive oil is low pro­file. The fran­toio is where exper­i­ments are con­ducted, with the idea of improv­ing both the machin­ery and the qual­i­ties of the olive oil.

Click to enlarge.

I’m shown around the fran­toio by Arianna Gerini and Paolo Bucci. An image from a Pieralisi brochure, shows the steps involved in olive oil pro­duc­tion. We walk from sta­tion to sta­tion of the extrac­tion sys­tem. I am very sur­prised when Paolo pulls a huge bolt off a win­dowsill and says that it was caught when the olives were being washed. He says the value of deleaf­ing and wash­ing is not just to clean the olives, but so for­eign objects like this bolt are iso­lated. I guess so. The olives are then crushed with a ham­mer crusher and kneaded into a warm paste (about 27°centigrade). With the Phase III machines water is intro­duced into the process. The Monte Schiavo oil is made with the Phase II machines. Paolo explains that the water washes some of the polyphe­nols away and the taste isn’t as good with Phase III machines. He goes on to say that in Spain they mostly use Phase II machines, but in Italy many peo­ple like to use Phase III because it allows them to col­lect the pomace and then sell it for fur­ther refin­ing into pomace oil.


With Phase II machines, like those here at the Monte Schiavo fran­toio, you’re left with a wet pomace that can, and is used for a soil amend­ment. The woody bits left of the pit can be used for com­bus­tion, although find­ing an appro­pri­ate stove to burn it, sim­i­lar to a pel­let stove, is not easy. The Phase II sys­tem also relieves you of hav­ing to deal with the veg­e­ta­tion water, which has to be dis­posed of in a con­trolled man­ner. The first cen­trifuge, the decanter cen­trifuge spins at a rate of 3,500 rota­tions per minute (were it smaller, it would spin more quickly, and if big­ger, more slowly) and the sec­ond cen­trifuge spins at 6,200 rota­tions per minute and refines the oil fur­ther. The whole extrac­tion process takes about two hours.

Dott.ssa Gerini man­ages the Monte Schiavo store. She explains that we’re in the Verdicchio D.O.C. area. The store has a num­ber of red and white wines. The best of the wines here is called Adeodato, it is a Rosso Conero D.O.C., made with 100% Montepulciano grapes, and named after Gennaro Pieralisi’s grand­fa­ther, the founder of the busi­ness. They make spumante and a whole range of wines. These are also avail­able out­side of Italy. The olive oil is essen­tially only sold here at the store. There are a few enote­cas and restau­rants that buy the oil, but that’s about it. We’re look­ing at the shelves with the oils, and they tell me that the Monte Schiavo oil is beyond good, it is excel­lent.

The key is that it is made quickly, from the pick­ing of the olives to the extrac­tion, takes three to four hours. The brevity of the process is used in the mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als. 4 Ore” or 4 Hours” is writ­ten in big let­ters on the fran­toio’s label. I’m given a pack of six bot­tles of the oil, 5 of 6 the bot­tles are made from sin­gle vari­eties of olives. The olives are: Ascolana Dura, Carboncella, Frantoio Leccino, Rosciola, and Sargano. The blend is called Blend 39” for the 39 vari­eties of olive in the mix. All the bot­tles have labels stat­ing that it’s extra-vir­gin olive oil, and Oil Extracted in Italy/From Olives Grown in Italy,” just to leave no doubt. Each bot­tle car­ries an expi­ra­tion date. Menu sug­ges­tions are also on the labels. At home, I don’t have any of the grilled fish or steaks, polenta, or the mine­strone that they sug­gest, but I’ve tried a cou­ple on let­tuce and they were excel­lent.


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