How One Producer Deals with Rising Volumes and A Shorter Harvest in France

In the South of France, the producer behind Mas des Bories manages a bumper harvest and a shorter window to mill.

Mas des Bories is named after the iconic drystone huts dotting the Provençal countryside. (Photo: Mas des Bories)
By Ofeoritse Daibo
Feb. 19, 2024 16:32 UTC
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Mas des Bories is named after the iconic drystone huts dotting the Provençal countryside. (Photo: Mas des Bories)

Mas des Bories sits among rows of olive trees, some cen­turies old, in the heart of Provence, a wine and olive oil-soaked region in south­ern France.

On either side of the mill are olive groves, stone ter­races and old bories – medieval igloo-shaped huts made of dry stones that dot the Provençal coun­try­side.

We see the matu­rity dates of our olive vari­eties are closer due to cli­mate change, which makes har­vest­ing and crush­ing more dif­fi­cult.- Claire De Fina Coutin, owner, Mas des Bories

Claire De Fina Coutin, an agron­o­mist who fell in love with the region, founded the olive farm and mill in 2019. Her grove com­prises about 1,700 trees, roughly 30 to 50 years old. She told Olive Oil Times that despite the drought that has plagued most of Europe, the 2023/24 crop year was a roar­ing suc­cess.

See Also:Meet the Man Trying to Transform the Olive Sector in France

This year was a good year. We had a great har­vest despite not hav­ing much rain,” De Fina Coutin said. Last year was good too, but this year was bet­ter.”

According to pre­lim­i­nary esti­mates from France Olive, a pro­duc­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion, France was antic­i­pated to pro­duce 4,400 tons of olive oil in 2023/24, a mar­ket improve­ment from the 3,500 tons pro­duced in 2022/23.

profiles-the-best-olive-oils-production-europe-how-one-producer-deals-with-rising-volumes-and-a-shorter-harvest-in-france-olive-oil-times

Claire De Fina Coutin founded Mas des Bories in 2019 after falling in love with the olive groves and landscape in Provence. (Photo: Mas des Bories)

Typically, our har­vest tends to be bet­ter than other regions,” De Fina Coutin said. The rea­son for this is our unique micro­cli­mate, thanks to our loca­tion in a val­ley.”

Mas des Bories is in Salon-de-Provence, one of the most expan­sive nat­ural land­scapes in France. The area is rich in wild fauna and flora, from Alep pines, oaks and broom to scrub­land across vine­yards, orchards and olive groves.

Due to our dry and sunny micro-cli­mate, we didn’t suf­fer from the sum­mer heat,” De Fina Coutin said. We were pro­tected by our loca­tion in the val­ley with trees. And we use irri­ga­tion, too, so that helps. But we do not need to irri­gate through­out the year; we irri­gate only for short peri­ods.”

As for the har­vest itself, there was not much dif­fer­ence between this year and last year,” she added. I would say that this year’s har­vest was per­haps ten to fif­teen per­cent more than last year’s. But it’s impor­tant to note that the har­vest was uneven across France. Some regions had good har­vests, while oth­ers were more affected by the cli­mate. In this region, we are in a priv­i­leged pocket of France.”

profiles-the-best-olive-oils-production-europe-how-one-producer-deals-with-rising-volumes-and-a-shorter-harvest-in-france-olive-oil-times

De Fina Coutin said the harvest seasons are becoming shorter, pointing to climate change as a likely cause. (Photo: Mas des Bories)

The hard work that comes with any har­vest remains, though,” De Fina Coutin con­tin­ued. It’s intense because we pro­duce, pack­age and mar­ket each bot­tle.”

Part of this inten­sity came from more foot traf­fic. De Fina Coutin said her mill was much busier this year. Since we are made to mea­sure, it is dif­fi­cult to say whether sales are bet­ter this year,” she said. However, there were cer­tainly more peo­ple at our presses look­ing for freshly pressed olive oil.”

It’s hard to tell why there are sud­denly more peo­ple,” De Fina Coutin added. They do not nec­es­sar­ily do it [to take advan­tage of high olive oil prices] but mostly because of tra­di­tion. Although it is less expen­sive in the presses, espe­cially if you have your own olives and the qual­ity is unde­ni­able. Because the rain was bet­ter this year, the qual­ity has also been so much bet­ter.”

Regarding the har­vest from her olive grove, De Fina Coutin noted that she is less con­cerned about quan­tity than qual­ity, and part of her mis­sion is to offer excel­lence in a bot­tle.

profiles-the-best-olive-oils-production-europe-how-one-producer-deals-with-rising-volumes-and-a-shorter-harvest-in-france-olive-oil-times

De Fina Coutin’s production is up by 15 percent. (Photo: Mas des Bories)

This would be my fifth har­vest,” she said. It is a small enter­prise. We pro­vide high-qual­ity, gourmet olive oil in four mono­va­ri­etals: Salonenque, Grossane, Bouteillan and Aglandau.”

Mas des Bories earned two Gold Awards at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition for its Bouteillan mono­va­ri­etal and a blend of Salonenque, Bouteillan and Aglandau olives.

In other words, our focus is on pro­duc­ing highly aro­matic vari­eties, tak­ing on an arti­sanal approach and bot­tling our oils to the high­est stan­dard,” De Fina Coutin said. In that sense, we do not worry too much about the vol­ume of our pro­duc­tion, which is affected by envi­ron­men­tal changes.”

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She added that the suc­cess of her busi­ness model is not depen­dent on vol­ume. Still, she admit­ted that the chang­ing cli­mate is hav­ing an impact as it alters extra vir­gin olive oil fla­vors. With cli­mate change, we are also see­ing a shorter har­vest period,” De Fina Coutin added.

Mas des Bories mainly focuses on pro­duc­ing mono­va­ri­etal oils, with the logic for this approach based on the dis­tinct opti­mal matu­rity dates of each olive vari­ety. The shorter har­vest period has raised new chal­lenges.

profiles-the-best-olive-oils-production-europe-how-one-producer-deals-with-rising-volumes-and-a-shorter-harvest-in-france-olive-oil-times

Mas des Bories produces Salonenque, Grossane, Bouteillan and Aglandau monovarietals and a signature blend. (Photo: Mas des Bories)

We har­vest our four vari­eties of local olives sep­a­rately at dif­fer­ent matu­rity dates,” De Fina Coutin said. Before the matu­rity dates were spread over time, which helped us orga­nize the har­vest and the crush­ing of each vari­ety.”

We see that the matu­rity dates of our olive vari­eties are closer due to cli­mate change, which makes har­vest­ing and crush­ing more dif­fi­cult because every­thing must be done in a shorter period of time,” she added.

While France escaped the worst con­se­quences of the drought in the 2023/24 crop year, De Fina Coutin cited water man­age­ment dur­ing extremely dry years as a chal­lenge fac­ing olive grow­ers in the south of France.

However, despite all the set­backs, we expect to keep our client base, which is roughly split between Europe and the United States,” De Fina Coutin con­cluded.


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