` The Rebirth of Corsican Olive Oil

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The Rebirth of Corsican Olive Oil

Dec. 12, 2010
By Alice Alech

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By Alice Alech
Olive Oil Times Con­trib­u­tor | Report­ing from Vidauban, France

Olives and olive oil pro­duced in the beau­ti­ful sun­drenched island of Cor­sica are with­out doubt, part of the grand world of olive grow­ing.

The island, known as Ile de la Beauté has huge areas of olive trees some more than 2, 000 years old but in the past, for too long, Cor­si­cans were busy deal­ing with fre­quent inva­sions, con­quests and fight for inde­pen­dence to tend to their olives.

Today, how­ever, thanks to the demand and appre­ci­a­tion of good qual­ity olive oil, young and older Cor­si­cans are man­ag­ing their orchards with pride and
devel­op­ing their olive oil with pas­sion.

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In Cor­sica, olives are har­vested only when they are black and ripe; this makes Olive oil from Cor­sica, or Oliu di Cor­sica, mostly mild; they are described as hav­ing a mod­er­ate level of bit­ter­ness and pun­gency with var­i­ous aro­mas.

As in main­land France, many pro­duc­ers here aim for Appel­la­tion Con­trôlée des­ig­na­tion, the French cer­tifi­cate of L’Institut National de L’origine Et de Qual­ité.

This AOC French cer­tifi­cate is a guar­an­tee that the olive oil pro­duced is of high qual­ity and comes only from Cor­sica. In keep­ing with recent changes by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion; the AOC logo will be replaced by the Euro­pean equiv­a­lent, Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin (PDO) as from July 2012.

One of Corsica’s suc­cess­ful young pro­duc­ers, San­drine Marfisi has already started using the Appel­la­tion D’Origine Pro­tégée label.

When San­drine started main­tain­ing the family’s plot as a hobby, she had no idea she would be become so enthused in olives and olive oil pro­duc­tion. In 2002, she and her hus­band Patrick moved to North West Cor­sica near the Bay of St. Flo­rent. Here in the idyl­lic loca­tion fac­ing the Mediter­ranean, they planted 200 trees of vari­ety Ger­maine Cas­inca; this was the vari­ety intro­duced by the
Genoese dur­ing their occu­pa­tion of the island in the sev­en­teenth cen­tury.

The Marfisi’s sold their first oil under their own label, Aliva Mari, as early as 2006. Today, their extra vir­gin olive oil is a pure fruit juice har­vested by hand and imme­di­ately pressed in their own mill with­out any addi­tives and with­out fil­tra­tion.

It’s great hav­ing our own mill here on the prop­erty. We used it for the first time in Octo­ber this year. It makes such a dif­fer­ence to the qual­ity; we work slowly but surely, aim­ing at pro­duc­ing qual­ity rather than quan­tity,” said San­drine.

I’m not look­ing to make the best olive oil in the mar­ket or to increase the areas that we grow; our goal is to pro­duce the best pos­si­ble olive oil, respect­ing the tra­di­tion of olive oil from Cor­sica.

We strive per­son­ally at all stages of pro­duc­tion. The Orchards are metic­u­lously main­tained through­out the year to pro­duce one of the finest qual­i­ties of olives Ger­maine, with one of the best yields in the region” she added.

San­drine and Patrick are the first grow­ers to start har­vest­ing each sea­son in Cor­sica.

At the Marfisi’s domaine, nets are placed on the grounds, then, by using an elec­tric comb or by hand the olives are allowed to drop into the net. Olives are picked when they are black (respect­ing PDO con­di­tions) and crushed the day after har­vest to avoid fer­men­ta­tion.

San­drine and Patrick believe it’s bet­ter to pick the olives before they are com­pletely ripe and fall to the ground.

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This allows us to have more veg­e­tal type of oil,” explained San­drine.

Aliva Marina olive oil is sold between 16 and 19 euros (about $21 to $25) per bot­tle at the domaine and in selected food shops in Cor­sica and main­land France.

In Sol­lac­aro, south of Cor­sica Mr. Paul Luc­cioni has a dif­fer­ent approach to olive grow­ing, a tra­di­tional man­ner. Paul started pro­duc­ing olive oil when he retired.

My olive trees are old, very old, about 400 to 500 years old. My orchard is small with only about 150 trees and like 80 % of grow­ers here, I am a tra­di­tional olive grower,” he said.

Paul explained that as a tra­di­tional olive grower with old trees he can only har­vest every two years and that he col­lects his olives using tra­di­tional meth­ods using nets which are emp­tied twice a week.

Once col­lected and cleaned Paul takes his olives to a nearby mill to be weighed and crushed.

He describes his olive oil as gen­tle and fruity.

He too has the AOC label on his olive oil which is dis­trib­uted and sold only in Cor­sica.

The first pri­or­ity for the AOC l’ Huile of Cor­sica label is the acid­ity test,” he said . It must not exceed 1.5 grammes per 100 grammes of oil.”

Con­trol by AOC con­di­tions takes place the same week the olive oil has been pro­duced. Sam­ples are col­lected from his domaine, tested for acid­ity and tasted by the jury within a week.

Here in Cor­sica you feel that the olive tree is a tree of life. Old trees are being cleaned, pruned and brought back to pro­duc­tiv­ity. Young pro­duc­ers are ris­ing to the chal­lenge and plant­ing new olive trees to give a fresh impe­tus to the olive oil indus­try. The peo­ple of Cor­sica are proud of their olive oil cul­ture.

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Visit l’Aliva Marina Cor­si­can extra vir­gin olive oil.

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