At Rastrello, Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil Promotes the Beauty of Umbria

The Wassmann family recently earned a second Gold Award at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, cementing their position as high-quality olive oil producers.
Rastrello's boutique hotel
May. 25, 2021
Ylenia Granitto

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For more than 20 years, the Wassmann fam­ily has cul­ti­vated olives on the undu­lat­ing hills around Panicale in cen­tral Italy.

The pro­duc­ers behind Rastrello are cur­rently cel­e­brat­ing their sec­ond con­sec­u­tive Gold Award at the 2021 New York International Olive Oil Competition.

Rastrello is the small hand rake used dur­ing the olive har­vest and it is a core part of local cul­ture, which I wanted to enhance and com­mu­ni­cate.- Christiane Wassmann, co-owner, Rastrello

We are so happy; we are over the moon,” Elida Wassmann, the co-owner of Rastrello, told Olive Oil Times. It is a great honor and such a beau­ti­ful thing. When you win an award like this, you tell your­self: Wow, we really did a great job.’”

The family’s sec­ond award in as many entries at the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion has val­i­dated the long process that began when Wassmann and her hus­band first arrived in Panicale about 25 years ago.

See Also: Producer Profiles

When we first arrived and saw the house immersed in the olive trees, we fell in love with this place,” she said.

Born in Portugal, Wassmann is an American who has lived all over the world. However, after decades of travel, she finally set­tled in the small com­mune in Umbria.

My par­ents, an air­line pilot and a flight atten­dant, trav­eled a lot,” she said, describ­ing the steps that led her to the beau­ti­ful vil­lage. In 1970, when I vis­ited them in Nicaragua, I met my hus­band, Günter, who is German.”

We lived there until the begin­ning of the rev­o­lu­tion when we went to Arizona,” she added. Both of us had already been to Italy and liked it so much. In 1996, we dis­cov­ered this place, and, in 2000, we moved for good.”

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The cou­ple passed down their cos­mopoli­tan atti­tude and affec­tion for the land to their chil­dren, espe­cially Lydia, who is in charge of the farm’s inter­na­tional sales, and Christiane, who cre­ated a beau­ti­ful recep­tive struc­ture.

At the begin­ning, there were only 75 olive trees, which grad­u­ally have become more than a thou­sand, spread over six hectares,” Wassmann said. We have recov­ered some olive groves that had been aban­doned for sev­eral years and were so over­grown; they had become like woods. In restor­ing them, we respected the bal­ance of the plants and the land­scape.”

Wassmann added that part of the orchard was replanted, keep­ing the orig­i­nal pat­tern, plac­ing the trees slightly more than six meters away from each other.

A large por­tion of the grove is made up of splen­did cen­tury-old plants, most of which are Dolce Agogia, and about one-third con­sist of ancient olive trees that we are try­ing to iden­tify,” she said.

Frantoio, Moraiolo, Leccino, Pendolino and Rosciolo com­plete the com­po­si­tion of the orchard, nes­tled in the hills south of Panicale. The names of these vari­eties also adorn Rastrello’s bou­tique hotel rooms, which are located in the 500-year-old Palazzo Grossi in the vil­lage.

I am an olive oil som­me­lier and wanted to join my olive oil knowl­edge into our hotel con­cept,” Christiane Wassmann said. After the ren­o­va­tion of the spaces, car­ried out respect­ing the his­tory of the orig­i­nal struc­ture, we chose the same name of our extra vir­gin olive oil. Rastrello is the small hand rake used dur­ing the olive har­vest and it is a core part of local cul­ture, which I wanted to enhance and com­mu­ni­cate.”

Her goal is to con­vey the beauty and the qual­ity prod­ucts of this part of Umbria, the ter­ri­tory of Lake Trasimeno, to every­one who comes to visit.

See Also: 2021 NYIOOC Coverage

We offer our guests our farm-to-table food and drinks,” she said. They can taste spe­cial­ties like our mar­tini, fat-washed with extra vir­gin olive oil, and the extra vir­gin olive oil gelato, all of which high­lights the taste and aro­mas of our flag­ship prod­uct, that comes from the land that over­looks the lake.”

The guests of Rastrello have the oppor­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in tast­ings, cook­ing classes focused on olive oil and field expe­ri­ences, includ­ing the olive har­vest.

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We invite them to live our beau­ti­ful olive grove, where they can find olive trees that are the same age as our struc­ture,” Wassmann said. There is a strong con­nec­tion between our work and the love for these plants. They con­tribute to the beauty of this ter­ri­tory, which we nur­ture and also enhance uti­liz­ing respect­ful and sus­tain­able actions.”

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Sustainability is a fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple for the fam­ily com­pany, which has imple­mented resource reuse and sav­ing sys­tems, start­ing from the appli­ca­tion of solar and pho­to­voltaic pan­els to pro­duce energy. Their farm­ing method also entails low-impact prac­tices, includ­ing the use of nat­ural fer­til­iz­ers.

Our work is as nat­ural as pos­si­ble,” Elida Wassmann said. I believe that we are what we eat. Thus the pro­tec­tion of the envi­ron­ment, preser­va­tion of bio­di­ver­sity and care for the ter­ri­tory has become for us a mis­sion.”

Every two or three years, the fam­ily acquires a small plot and plan to restore the aban­doned lands while expand­ing their olive oil pro­duc­tion.

There is always so much to do,” Wassmann said. Yet, my hus­band and I have such a great pas­sion for our land that even the hard­est work is no bur­den, and we spend most of our time between the olive grove and the veg­etable gar­den.”

During prun­ing and har­vest sea­son, they are sup­ported by a group of col­lab­o­ra­tors. The care­ful and con­stant work of a year cul­mi­nates with a har­vest at the proper time. The fruits are crushed in a local mill of the lat­est gen­er­a­tion that allows them to obtain an excel­lent final prod­uct.

We started pro­duc­ing olive oil for our own con­sump­tion and we ended up get­ting so pas­sion­ate that we still did not stop to build the beau­ti­ful things around this won­der­ful prod­uct, the most recent of which is our hotel,” Wassmann said.

Initially, we pro­duced oil just for fun. We invited friends for the har­vest and had many lunches in the olive grove,” she added. This aspect of enjoy­ment has remained, but it has been enriched by a com­mit­ment that allows us to com­mu­ni­cate bet­ter our mes­sage of sus­tain­abil­ity, respect and, in the end, beauty.”

We respect the ter­ri­tory, which means also respect­ing peo­ple,” Wassmann con­cluded. We try to do a qual­ity job, which is more than a job. I can say it is a mat­ter of love and we are try­ing to trans­mit this to our five grand­chil­dren. We want to edu­cate them to work with love and cul­ti­vate beauty.”


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