Centonze, a Forward-Looking Farm Rooted in Sicily's History

In western Sicily’s Belice Valley, Centonze produces award-winning extra virgin olive oil, celebrating the land and history, while focusing on sustainability and innovation.

Harvesting at night at Centonze
Dec 9, 2021 9:15 AM EST
By Ylenia Granitto
Harvesting at night at Centonze

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Among the many appeal­ing qual­i­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil is the strong bond the prod­uct shares with the ter­ri­to­ries where it is pro­duced.

Starting from the label on to the sen­sory pro­file, Centonze Case di Latomie strives to pro­vide cus­tomers a taste of its land and his­tory.

In all of this scenery, you breathe the ori­gins of olive farm­ing.- Nino Centonze, owner, Centonze Case di Latomie

The salient trait of our farm is out­lined by the name, Case di Latomie,” Nino Centonze told Olive Oil Times. Our orchards lie close to the archae­o­log­i­cal park of Selinunte, the largest in Europe. They include some remains dat­ing back to 800 BC, namely a group of stone quar­ries.”

Called latomie, from the Greek words λᾶας, stone, and τέμνω, to cut, they have been dug by the peo­ple who once lived here to obtain the blocks of lime­stone tuff used in the con­struc­tion of the adjoin­ing vil­lage,” he added.

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Among the ves­tiges, cen­turies-old olive trees thrive, one of which is esti­mated to be about 1,200 years old. These liv­ing wit­nesses to his­tory are part of a 90-hectare olive grove com­pris­ing 9,000 Nocellara trees, nes­tled in the heart of the Belice Valley.

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Most of them descend from wild olive trees, which were grafted by peas­ants in for­mer times,” Centonze said. An inter­est­ing pecu­liar­ity is that they are rooted directly on the cal­care­ous tuff, and I think that this min­eral com­po­nent has a pos­i­tive effect on the fla­vor, round­ing off the typ­i­cal notes of arti­choke, grass, tomato and almond of our extra vir­gin olive oils.”

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Biancolilla, tra­di­tion­ally inserted as a pol­li­na­tor, and a few Cerasuola and Giarraffa trees, char­ac­ter­ized by large fruits, com­plete the com­po­si­tion of the grove.

I define us as an archaeo-olive farm. Here, you can stroll through a his­tor­i­cal land­scape, in the shadow of mon­u­men­tal trees that have been handed down over gen­er­a­tions,” Centonze said. In all of this scenery, you breathe the ori­gins of olive farm­ing. We know that the olive tree is autochtho­nous to the Middle East. “

Greeks, in fact, due to their con­tacts with that area, were among the very first peo­ples to grasp its value and spread its cul­ti­va­tion,” he added. Olive oil becomes so impor­tant for light­ing houses, tem­ples and ports, that they brought the tree with them when they set­tled in Sicily.”

Today, with the sup­port of my fam­ily, I look after this land, pro­tect­ing its cul­tural and envi­ron­men­tal trea­sures, while inno­vat­ing and improv­ing our com­pany,” Centonze con­tin­ued.

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The prop­erty was estab­lished in the early 1950s by his name­sake grand­fa­ther, and in 2000, his father, Giacomo, started to set up a farm­house.

At that time, our extra vir­gin olive oil was increas­ingly appre­ci­ated by our guests, tourists and trav­el­ers from all over the world,” Centonze said. We had many requests, and this prompted me to cre­ate the pack­ag­ing of what was our first half-liter bot­tle. It was 2009, and I focused on high-qual­ity pro­duc­tion, first rely­ing on a good oil mill nearby and after­ward build­ing our own pro­duc­tion facil­ity.”

The estate now includes a 29-room farm­house with a spa and two out­door pools, along­side a restau­rant with farm-to-table prod­ucts and an adja­cent organic veg­etable gar­den. From here, a short walk through the olive trees takes guests to the state-of-the-art com­pany mill.

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Only the small­est fruits are crushed in the two-phase machin­ery, within a few hours after being hand-picked and selected,” Centonze said.

He added that the dru­pes are col­lected and imme­di­ately sorted, as the larger ones are intended for table olive con­sump­tion. After being sorted, they are processed accord­ing to dif­fer­ent meth­ods.

The table olive pro­duc­tion process and olive oil cul­ture, in gen­eral, are so cen­tral to the town of Castelvetrano, where Centonze’s farm is located, that its name was given to a pop­u­lar method to pre­pare table olives.

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Nocellara can reach con­sid­er­able dimen­sions asso­ci­ated with a major aque­ous com­po­nent,” he said. Therefore, we choose the fruits by size in order to obtain oils that have excel­lent fea­tures, includ­ing a proper amount of polyphe­nols, just like those that over the years have been awarded at the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.”

Among these is Chiaro di Luna, an extra vir­gin olive oil har­vested under the moon­light.

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Every year, for a cou­ple of weeks the clear­est nights are ded­i­cated to night oper­a­tions,” Centonze said. He is among the pio­neers of night har­vest­ing.

In this way, we have absolute con­trol of tem­per­a­tures since we usu­ally start har­vest­ing between September 27th and 30th and we go on through­out the month of October, which is still warm dur­ing day­time with up to 25 ºC to 26 °C,” he said. “​This pro­ce­dure allows us to take advan­tage of the lower tem­per­a­tures after 11 p.m. and to stress out the olives as lit­tle as pos­si­ble.”

Whether it is under the sun or the moon­light, the oil is left to decant for a max­i­mum of one day once it has been extracted, before it is fil­tered and stored under nitro­gen.

At this moment, we are in the process of cre­at­ing a new in-line stor­age sys­tem,” Centonze said. This update shall basi­cally ensure that the oil will be com­pletely pro­tected from oxy­gen until bot­tling.”

A gen­eral upgrad­ing of the com­pany is under­way, which involves the expan­sion of the farm­ing land. Another 25 hectares are set to host new olive groves. A total of 22,000 trees will be planted by the begin­ning of 2022.

Centonze said his team is com­mit­ted to man­ag­ing the vast estate with the low­est envi­ron­men­tal impact. The energy of the whole com­pany is obtained by pho­to­voltaic pan­els and a bio­mass heat­ing sys­tem in the facil­ity, which allows Centonze to reuse pomace and pits result­ing from the extrac­tion of olive oil.

We are focused on sus­tain­abil­ity, pay­ing the utmost atten­tion to the trans­for­ma­tion and use of by-prod­ucts,” Centonze said. We have at heart the pro­tec­tion and the respect of this ter­ri­tory.”

This is also a way to honor our con­sumers in the world, as we want to offer them a true Sicilian extra vir­gin olive oil, one that springs from a healthy and beau­ti­ful land and, wher­ever they may be, gives them a taste of it,” he con­cluded.


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