`More Obstacles for New PDOs and PGIs in Italy

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More Obstacles for New PDOs and PGIs in Italy

Dec. 22, 2015
Luciana Squadrilli

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The arrival of this sea­son’s freshly pressed extra vir­gin olive oils and the lat­est scan­dals are food for thought on the newest PDOs (Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tions of Ori­gin) and PGIs (Pro­tected Geo­graph­i­cal Indi­ca­tions) in Italy. In Basil­i­cata, pro­duc­ers gath­ered to sell their PDO oil with a com­mon label while Sicily strug­gles to get its regional PGI rec­og­nized by the EU.

Despite the dif­fi­cul­ties and the less-than-sat­is­fy­ing results of pro­tected cer­ti­fi­ca­tions thus far, Ital­ian grow­ers and pro­duc­ers still con­sider them a good way to pro­tect and safe­guard their prod­ucts.

In Vùl­ture — a small area in the north­ern part of the Basil­i­cata region located under the epony­mous moun­tain and includ­ing the munic­i­pal­i­ties of Melfi, Rapolla, Bar­ile, Rionero in Vùl­ture, Atella, Ripacan­dida, Mas­chito, Gines­tra and Venosa — the local extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers decided to cre­ate a com­mon label to com­mer­cial­ize their PDO prod­ucts.

Basil­i­cata is famous for its olives, but the local oil is not yet fully appre­ci­ated and the ter­ri­tory is quite detached from the main flow of tourism, despite its rich his­tory and breath­tak­ing nat­ural beauty.

While the local Vùl­ture PDO has been approved since 2012, due to the small dimen­sions of the local farms, the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion has never received much atten­tion.

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Now, the 16 pro­duc­ers and own­ers of cer­ti­fied groves in the Vùl­ture area, led by Giuseppe Mas­turzo, have given birth to a new com­pany called Soci­età Fran­toiani del Vùl­ture (Vùl­ture Oil Millers Coop­er­a­tive).

The sin­gle estates will keep pro­duc­ing and bot­tling their own extra vir­gin olive oil, but they will con­fer the PDO-cer­ti­fied oil to the new com­pany, which will bot­tle, label and com­mer­cial­ize it with a brand new lay­out, ele­gant pack­ag­ing and a unique name: Olio Vù.

This was a busi­ness deal,” said Antoni­etta Rucco, the com­pa­ny’s Pro­mo­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Man­ager, but we are firmly con­vinced of the United we stand, divided we fall’ motto. The Vùl­ture PDO’s pro­duc­tion reg­u­la­tion is the strictest in Italy for extra vir­gin olive oil and we have an out­stand­ing qual­ity, but we need to join our efforts the let our prod­uct to be known and appre­ci­ated. Local farms are very small and even by bot­tling all their PDO oil, we won’t exceed 200,00 bot­tles per year.”

The main local vari­ety, Ogliarola del Vùl­ture, must com­prise 60 per­cent of Vùl­ture PDO, while the remain­ing 40 per­cent can include other cul­ti­vars such as Coratina, Cima di Melfi, Pal­marola, Proven­zale, Lec­cino, Fran­toio, Can­nellino, Roton­della, Nocel­lara and Lado­lia. The acid­ity can­not exceed 0.38 per­cent (oleic acid).

Thanks to the min­eral com­po­si­tion of the soil in the area — the Vùl­ture once was a vol­cano — and to the local micro­cli­mate, here olive trees grow healthy and rich and the local olives give a smooth, mildly pun­gent and medium fruity extra vir­gin with a golden color and green­ish hues.

While the new Olio Vù was launched in Milan dur­ing Expo 2015, we still have to wait to taste the new har­vest’s out­put. Local grow­ers are still har­vest­ing — early har­vest is not that com­mon here — and it will take some more time to receive the PDO label due to the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­ce­dures. The new Olio Vù will only be avail­able at the begin­ning of 2016.

Going more South, things are get­ting harder. In Sicily, over the last two years the local com­mit­tee led by Mau­r­izio Lunetta — also pres­i­dent of the Sicilia wine des­ig­na­tion of orig­in’s con­sor­tium — has been putting all its effort to obtain a regional PGI for extra vir­gin olive oil, and to reach an agree­ment and a com­mon plan among all the island’s pro­duc­ers.

Despite count­ing on 6 dif­fer­ent PDOs and an acknowl­edged aver­age qual­ity, Sicil­ian olive oil still does not get a fair price on the national and inter­na­tional loose extra vir­gin mar­ket and the sin­gle geo­graphic denom­i­na­tions do not have an imme­di­ate link to the region’s name, even for Ital­ian peo­ple.

Val di Mazara PDO embraces a ter­ri­tory between Palermo and Agri­gento, but most of peo­ple only asso­ciates it with the har­bor city of Mazara del Vallo, on the south­ern coast,” Lunetta explained.

On the con­trary, Sicily is very well known and appre­ci­ated all over the world. The regional PDOs rep­re­sent our dia­mond point and are doing well, but they are too small com­pared to the whole Sicil­ian olive grove. We want to make the most of this wide acknowl­edge­ment.”

Unfor­tu­nately, after hav­ing been approved by Ital­ian Min­istry, the des­ig­na­tion has been sus­pended by the EU despite mak­ing requested adjust­ments to the reg­u­la­tion.

They are cur­rently rais­ing doubts on the legit­i­macy of all the regional des­ig­na­tions,” Lunetta explained, but we have our Min­istry’s sup­port and we are con­fi­dent. It would be a real shame to nul­lify all the efforts we made to per­suade the whole olive oil chain on the island — grow­ers, small pro­duc­ers and big bot­tlers — to sit at the same table for the very first time.

We have over 500 olive mills, a myr­iad of small farms in Sicily, and many dif­fer­ent vari­eties. But the great­est part of the Sicil­ian extra vir­gin is made from seven main cul­ti­vars and it has a dis­tinc­tive, eas­ily rec­og­niz­able char­ac­ter with pecu­liar fea­tures such as toma­to’s and almond’s notes. We have to count on our pecu­liar­ity and our bio­di­ver­sity.”

Lunetta said an over­all Sicilia IGP would be a strong asset to con­trol and track local pro­duc­tion and guar­an­tee fair com­pen­sa­tion for small grow­ers and to get rid of scams.

If we were able to totally elim­i­nate frauds, we could get a higher price for our oil, gain­ing at least one euro per kilo more than now. Things like that are a real dam­age for us,” Lunetta said.

Mean­while, some Sicil­ian pro­duc­ers have already obtained the Sicilia PGI cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the Ital­ian min­istry for their groves, and they could put a tem­po­rary PGI label on the bot­tles of their new oil. But most anx­iously await the response from Brus­sels.

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