European Union Expands Monte de Etna PDO Territory in Sicily

The expansion means the potential production of Monte de Etna PDO extra virgin olive oil could double.

Mont Etna
Jul. 5, 2022
By Paolo DeAndreis
Mont Etna

Recent News

The European Union has expanded the ter­ri­tory of the Monte Etna PDO in Sicily, allow­ing more grow­ers, millers and bot­tlers to label their extra vir­gin olive oil with the geo­graph­i­cal indi­ca­tor.

Previously, only 18 Sicilian munic­i­pal­i­ties located on the west­ern slope of Europe’s tallest active vol­cano were eli­gi­ble for the Protected Designation of Origin cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Our extra vir­gin olive oil is the son of a won­der­fully unsta­ble ter­ri­tory. Etna is an active vol­cano and that envelops olive grow­ing in feel­ings and bio­di­ver­sity which are com­pletely unique.- Giosué Catania, pres­i­dent, Monte Etna PDO Consortium

It took us almost 10 years to have the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion include the full ter­ri­tory of another 25 munic­i­pal­i­ties on the east­ern side of Mount Etna,” Giosué Catania, pres­i­dent of the Monte Etna PDO Consortium, told Olive Oil Times.

According to the con­sor­tium, the new rules expand the poten­tial pro­duc­tion area of the Monte Etna PDO from 750,000 olive trees on 5,500 hectares to more than one mil­lion on 7,300 hectares. As a result, the num­ber of farms and pro­duc­ers poten­tially affected by the change will rise from 4,500 to approx­i­mately 5,800.

See Also:Value of PDO and PGI Olive Oil Production Drops in Italy

If we are talk­ing about the poten­tial PDO extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion, we esti­mate that under the new rules, it could reach between 1.5 and 1.8 mil­lion liters and an over­all turnover of €15 to €17 mil­lion,” Catania said.

While the PDO area is now sig­nif­i­cantly larger, not all farms and com­pa­nies will nec­es­sar­ily be inter­ested in fol­low­ing the steps nec­es­sary to receive the Mont Etna PDO cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

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Under the old cri­te­ria, we have 46 mem­bers in the pro­duc­tion chain with approx­i­mately 200 hectares of cer­ti­fied pro­duc­tion area and more than 45,000 liters of cer­ti­fied PDO pro­duc­tion,” Catania said.

One of the chal­lenges pro­duc­ers in the Monte Etna PDO area faced when try­ing to adhere to the old cri­te­ria or to retain their sta­tus as PDO-cer­ti­fied pro­duc­ers has been cli­mate change, which has impacted the acid­ity lev­els of their extra vir­gin olive oils.

More specif­i­cally, it has slightly increased linoleic and linolenic aver­age acid­ity. Such phe­nom­e­non is expressly cited by the E.U.-approved new dis­ci­pli­nary.

These two mark­ers need to be changed because a grow­ing num­ber of batches of oil from the area cov­ered by the Monte Etna Protected Designation of Origin have failed to obtain cer­ti­fi­ca­tion in recent years due to hav­ing a higher linoleic acid and linolenic acid con­tent than the val­ues cur­rently set in the prod­uct spec­i­fi­ca­tion,” the E.U. wrote.

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Harvesting olives for Monte Etna PDO olive oil in Sicily

Studies show that this is linked to the increase in aver­age tem­per­a­tures and the sig­nif­i­cant drop in rain­fall that has taken place in recent years, alter­ing the acid­ity pro­file of Monte Etna oil,” they added.

Therefore, the max­i­mum lev­els of both acids have been raised with the new rules. As a result, accept­able linoleic acid­ity rose from a max­i­mum of 10 per­cent to 13.5 per­cent and linolenic from 0.8 per­cent to 0.9 per­cent.

Of course, it does not affect in any way the qual­ity of the result­ing extra vir­gin olive oil and both lev­els are way below those found in many other PDOs dis­ci­pli­nary,” Catania said.

The most rel­e­vant con­se­quence of such changes is the oppor­tu­nity that they open up for more local pro­duc­ers to add value to their extra vir­gin olive oils and mar­ket them as Monte Etna PDO.

Monte Etna PDO is an extra vir­gin olive oil pri­mar­ily made from the Nocellara Etnea vari­ety, which must con­sti­tute at least 65 per­cent of the total vol­ume, accord­ing to the PDO rules.

See Also:Greece Registers Four PDO and PGI Olive Oils as Intellectual Property

Among the most inter­est­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of those trees are their larger-than-aver­age yields and the pos­si­bil­ity to grow them at higher alti­tudes.

We live in a moun­tain­ous ter­ri­tory, and that means grow­ing olives at 900 or even 1,000 meters above sea level in a sunny breezy and proper Mediterranean cli­mate, which adds to the iden­tity of this prod­uct,” Catania said.

Our extra vir­gin olive oil is the son of a won­der­fully unsta­ble ter­ri­tory,” he added. Etna is an active vol­cano and that envelops olive grow­ing in feel­ings and bio­di­ver­sity which are com­pletely unique.”

Catania added how olive farm­ing in such a chal­leng­ing envi­ron­ment is con­sid­ered an exam­ple of heroic agri­cul­ture,” a term coined to describe farm­ing in areas where the land is too steep or too remote for mechan­i­cal assis­tance.

Such char­ac­ter­is­tics impact pro­duc­tion costs and yields but also con­tributes to the unique iden­tity of local extra vir­gin olive oils. It is a ter­ri­tory char­ac­ter­ized by ancient trees, steep slopes and small lava stone walls.

Olive grow­ing has been a con­stant pres­ence here for gen­er­a­tions. Olive trees are a her­itage that goes beyond olive oil mak­ing, as they belong to the ter­ri­tory and its land­scape,” Catania said.

Ancient myths cer­tify such her­itage, such as the Cyclops Polyphemus, a per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of Mount Etna, whose fire-soaked eye gets blinded by an olive trunk han­dled by Ulysses, who also had slept on a bed made of olive wood,” he added. Phoenicians and Greeks intro­duced the olive trees, and ancient Romans imported olive oil from this land acknowl­edg­ing its high qual­ity.”

Along with the his­tory and tra­di­tion, Catania added that extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced on the slopes of Mount Etna has a unique organolep­tic pro­file.

It is a fruity extra vir­gin olive oil with hints of herbs, arti­choke and green tomato, enriched by a har­mony of bit­ter and pun­gent notes,” Catania said. It is a del­i­cate extra vir­gin olive oil, a prod­uct that can express its best when used with fish and with Mediterranean diet foods.”

Thanks to the updated rules, we esti­mate that start­ing from this sea­son, we will assess a strong growth in cer­ti­fied pro­duc­tion vol­umes, from 70 to 100 per­cent when com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year,” he con­cluded. The Monte Etna PDO is under­go­ing an evo­lu­tion­ary step which will allow us to pro­tect the prod­uct and pro­mote it on the mar­ket.”



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