Award-Winning Producer on Corsica Stays Optimistic Despite Island's Challenges

The challenges of high-quality olive oil production are accentuated on an island, Emile Borel-Berta told us. Still, the NYIOOC award-winning producer is confident about the future.

Emilie Borel-Berta (Photo: Sylvain Alessandri)
Nov. 15, 2022
By Jasmina Nevada
Emilie Borel-Berta (Photo: Sylvain Alessandri)

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Scorching spring and sum­mer tem­per­a­tures and ongo­ing drought, which have been the bane of olive grow­ers on the European main­land, are also impact­ing farm­ers on Corsica.

We started our har­vest much ear­lier this year due to the extreme heat and lack of rain, in mid-September instead of early October as we have been used to these last years,” Emile Borel-Berta, an author and the co-owner of Moulin Oltremonti, told Olive Oil Times.

Despite the beauty of our cli­mate and the nat­ural resources which make it a per­fect place for olive pro­duc­tion, we face the same prob­lems that other farm­ers face, but more accen­tu­ated.- Emile Borel-Berta, co-owner, Moulin Oltremonti

Borel-Berta pur­chased the farm with her hus­band, Ivo, in 2008. The estate sits on 35 hectares of rolling hills in Monte, on the east coast of the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. On another five hectares, the fam­ily runs a mod­ern two-phase mill.

Last year, Moulin Oltremonti pro­duced about 35 tons of extra vir­gin olive oil. However, Borel-Berta said she sus­pects the farm will yield far less olive oil this year.

See Also:Producer Profiles

Normally, Borel-Berta cites Corsica’s cli­mate – includ­ing plenty of sun­shine through­out the year, ample fresh water resources and cool moun­tain breezes dur­ing the sum­mer – as part of what endows her award-win­ning olive oil with its dis­tinct organolep­tic qual­i­ties.

However, she acknowl­edged that cli­mate change was bring­ing new chal­lenges and oppor­tu­ni­ties to olive farm­ing and oil pro­duc­tion in Corsica, adding to all the exist­ing ones.

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We face the dif­fi­cul­ties that every island faces, mainly its iso­la­tion,” she said. Despite the beauty of our cli­mate and the nat­ural resources which make it a per­fect place for olive pro­duc­tion, we face the same prob­lems that other farm­ers face, but more accen­tu­ated.”

Among the chal­lenges of pro­duc­ing olive oil on an island, Borel-Berta cited higher prices for most goods and ser­vices, labor mar­ket chal­lenges and polit­i­cal inac­tion.

Borel-Berta added that another head­wind is a lack of con­sumer under­stand­ing of the organolep­tic and health ben­e­fits of extra vir­gin olive oil.

Our task is to over­come these prob­lems,” she said. Corsica is a nat­ural and largely untouched ter­ri­tory, a place for olive trees to thrive under free and immense skies of blue. Such a task can only bring joy, how­ever dif­fi­cult it may be.”

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One of the ways Corsican farm­ers over­come the many hur­dles of olive oil pro­duc­tion on an island is through col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Borel-Berta said Moulin Oltremonti runs infor­ma­tional olive oil tast­ing ses­sions and helps other pro­duc­ers equip and run their mills.

It is nat­ural to assist other olive oil pro­duc­ers when you are a pro­fes­sional and multi-award-win­ner,” she said. Producers and millers come to us for advice, ques­tions, and prob­lems to resolve. We nat­u­rally assist our friends and fel­low pro­duc­ers when needed because that has always been how we have been brought up.”

Along with olive oil, the com­pany also pro­duces olive oil-based soap and other beauty prod­ucts, olive spreads and table olives. However, extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion is the com­pa­ny’s main focus.

Earlier this year, Moulin Oltremonti’s Athea brand earned the indus­try’s most pres­ti­gious qual­ity award at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Our team was thrilled to receive a Gold Award at the NYIOOC,” she said. This means we should keep up the good work and be in good spir­its with increased vis­i­bil­ity and sales.”

Borel-Berta crafts her Athea brand from the native Ghjermana di Casinca vari­ety, which is har­vested at the end of each autumn, along with Taggiasca and Leccio del Corno olives. She attrib­uted the unique herba­ceous aroma and green banana and pep­pery notes to the com­bi­na­tion of cul­ti­var and cli­mate.

Despite the dif­fi­cul­ties of the cur­rent sea­son, Borel-Berta is opti­mistic about the future. She is already look­ing for­ward to send­ing fresh extra vir­gin olive oil to the 2023 NYIOOC and has plans to expand pro­duc­tion.

Our future plans are to plant more olive trees, of course,” she con­cluded.


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