A Family Tradition Takes Root at Moulin de la Coquille

The French producer earned a second consecutive Gold Award at the 2022 NYIOOC, attributing the success to new investments in organic production, irrigation and technology.
Aurélie Sirvent (right)
May. 31, 2022
Paolo DeAndreis

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A new approach to olive oil mak­ing has con­firmed Moulin de la Coquille as one of the best olive oil pro­duc­ers in the world.

Situated between Montpellier and Marseille, in south­ern France, the pro­ducer earned a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive Gold Award for its Fruité Vert, a medium blend, at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Even when I was in the French army… I would still come back to care for the trees and help with the olive oil pro­duc­tion oper­a­tions.- Aurélie Sirvent, owner, Moulin de la Coquille

We are so proud and happy that we can show the world the high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil that we are pro­duc­ing,” Aurélie Sirvent, owner of the Provence-based com­pany, told Olive Oil Times.

When she took the helm of olive grow­ing activ­i­ties on the beau­ti­ful fam­ily estate, Sirvent decided the best way for­ward was to focus on qual­ity. She invested in more advanced farm­ing tech­niques, deployed new tech­nolo­gies and con­verted to organic pro­duc­tion.

See Also:Producer Profiles

We are also invest­ing in a new high vol­ume olive oil mill, as I real­ized we needed it to ensure we can quickly process all the olives right after har­vest,” she said.

Sirvent’s par­ents bought the estate more than 30 years ago, and she grew up among the olive trees. As a result, she has always been involved in olive oil pro­duc­tion.

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Even when I was in the French army, where I was an air traf­fic con­troller for 11 years, I would still come back to care for the trees and help with the olive oil-pro­duc­tion oper­a­tions,” she said.

Now that her chil­dren play and explore in the groves, Sirvent believes a sense of an olive-grow­ing tra­di­tion is begin­ning to take root in the fam­ily.

It makes me so happy to see that we are all on the track of our fam­ily pas­sion and tra­di­tion,” she said.

Moulin de la Coquille boasts 28 hectares of olive groves within the Valleé des Baux de Provence PDO (AOP, in French) region. The AOP was rec­og­nized by the European Union in 1997 and includes black table olive pro­duc­tion and olive oil.

While a small part of Moulin de la Coquille’s olive grove is older trees that have been around for sev­eral gen­er­a­tions, Sirvent has more recently expanded the estate, plant­ing 10 hectares of high-den­sity groves and thou­sands of other olive trees tra­di­tion­ally.

As a whole, I would say that now we man­age approx­i­mately 10,000 trees, which include all the cul­ti­vars that make it pos­si­ble for us to pro­duce our AOP,” Sirvent said. They include Solonenque, Aglandau, Grossane and Verdale, but we also have Picholine.”

europe-profiles-production-the-best-olive-oils-a-family-tradition-takes-root-at-moulin-de-la-coquille-olive-oil-times

Photo: Aurélie Sirvent

Climate change is among the biggest chal­lenges for Valleé des Beaux grow­ers.

We can see that, as it gets drier every year,” Sirvent said. Just like the last year, France Olive warned us that the sea­son will be too dry… That is why we are now fur­ther invest­ing in irri­ga­tion.”

While vari­eties such as Solonenque are known for their abil­ity to with­stand drought, oth­ers such as Aglandau or Grossane require more water. The cur­rent drought, which is crip­pling large areas in the Mediterranean, is also being felt by French olive oil pro­duc­ers.

As the cli­mate changes through­out the Mediterranean, olive oil grow­ers are increas­ingly con­fronted with the need to expand irri­ga­tion.

Until now, we only had a few fields irri­gated,” Sirvent said. But, this year, we have bought all the mate­ri­als needed to irri­gate our groves fully. The last ones to be irri­gated are our 200 trees which date back to 1956. We are work­ing to begin irri­gat­ing them as soon as pos­si­ble.”

New tech­niques and approaches for adapt­ing to cli­mate change are rou­tinely dis­cussed by pro­duc­ers in Provence, who often meet dur­ing the year.

We meet eight to 10 times each year,” Sirvent said. Those meet­ings have been very rel­e­vant for us to learn and bet­ter under­stand our trees. There is no sense of com­pe­ti­tion among us, as a truly friendly envi­ron­ment pre­vails, where one is always ready to help the other when needed.”

Other aspects of cli­mate change that require plan­ning and adap­ta­tion include the more fre­quent extreme weather events.

Last year, a sud­den cold snap in south­ern France dam­aged vine­yards and olive groves in the area.

We had that cold, and the year before, we did not have many olives,” Sirvent said. Yes, I think the effects of cli­mate change are prob­a­bly the most rel­e­vant chal­lenge we face.”

However, these chal­lenges have not stopped Moulin de la Coquille from invest­ing in the tran­si­tion from con­ven­tional farm­ing to organic grow­ing.

We are in the third year of the con­ver­sion, so it is very dif­fer­ent from what it used to be,” Sirvent said. Now we have to take care of the trees think­ing organic, which means that you can­not use chem­i­cal prod­ucts to kill the flies.”

Plus, our region is very windy, which means that you can­not apply the organic treat­ments when­ever you want; you have to wait for a calm, quiet day,” she added. Sometimes we do that at night.”

Organic pro­duc­tion is already in full swing at Moulin de la Coquille, as the 10 hectares devoted to high-den­sity farm­ing are already organic.

Other inter­ven­tions to keep the trees healthy include the per­ma­nent grass cover main­tained under the trees, which helps retain soil mois­ture and mit­i­gates some of the impacts of cli­mate change in the region.

europe-profiles-production-the-best-olive-oils-a-family-tradition-takes-root-at-moulin-de-la-coquille-olive-oil-times

Photo: Aurélie Sirvent

The har­vest at Moulin de la Coquille begins early in the sea­son, usu­ally October, and can extend to the first half of December.

We have devised a new method to har­vest,” Sirvent said. We use a mini-exca­va­tor, and on the top of its arm, we put a big comb.”

We use it to har­vest the upper por­tion of the olive trees while the bot­tom part is cleared with the usual mobile elec­tric tools oper­ated by a sin­gle user,” she added. This tech­nique also allows the trees to grow much taller.”

While Picholine is only par­tially involved in pro­duc­ing the AOP prod­uct, it is a source for table olives pro­duc­tion, with which Moulin de la Coquille has just begun exper­i­ment­ing.

A few years ago, I started work­ing on alter­na­tive extra vir­gin olive oil-related prod­ucts,” Sirvent said. We started pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oil infused with basil.”

We do not add that to the final prod­uct, but we do trans­form it together with the olives,” she added. After that, we also started pro­duc­ing extra vir­gin olive oil with mint using the same pro­ce­dure. They are both won­der­ful.”

Sirvent also hinted at other ongo­ing projects, includ­ing small-scale soap pro­duc­tion.

It is a beau­ti­ful way to use our extra vir­gin olive oil,” she said. I love to pro­duce and trans­form what we grow over here.”

We have fruits and figs. It is a plea­sure to offer our cus­tomers our dry figs, dry toma­toes and our pesto,” she con­cluded. When they come to know us bet­ter as a pro­ducer and taste our olive oils.”


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