Northern Italian Producers Achieve Quality Despite Drought, Frost

Producers from Lombardy, Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Emilia-Romagna triumphed once again at the World Olive Oil Competition.
Festa dell'olio ITA
By Paolo DeAndreis
Jul. 11, 2022 14:09 UTC

Part of our con­tin­u­ing spe­cial cov­er­age of the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

After a very chal­leng­ing sea­son, a hand­ful of north­ern Italian olive oil pro­duc­ers struck gold at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Producers demon­strated their resilience in the face of weather extremes. However, the ungen­er­ous spring and sum­mer led to sig­nif­i­cantly lower yields in most areas of north­ern Italy.

We tried to find the extra vir­gin olive oil which could express the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of our land.- Andrea Magnone, co-owner, Emilia Food Love

It has been a very com­plex har­vest in the chang­ing sce­nario of the last few years,” Furio Battelini, tech­ni­cal direc­tor of Agraria Riva del Garda, told Olive Oil Times.

Compounding the cli­matic chal­lenges of 2021, Battelini added that many of his trees entered the off-year in the nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle of the olive tree.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Italy

Today’s cli­mate has become way more unpre­dictable,” he added. Once in our region, there were alter­nat­ing results, so you had olive farm­ers pro­duc­ing less in one area and oth­ers pro­duc­ing more in another loca­tion. Now the effects of cli­mate are much wider, and we can only hope it will soon return to how it used to be.”

Agraria Riva del Garda once again earned a Gold Award for its 46° Parallelo, an organic extra vir­gin olive oil.

The producer’s groves are located in Trentino Alto Adige, above Lake Garda, where the Alps con­tribute to a more mild cli­mate.


Views from the Agraria Riva del Garda olive groves

Winning this award has been such a sat­is­fac­tion, even more than in the past because of the sea­son we had,” Battelini said. We also needed to see the lev­els we had reached in such a chal­leng­ing year. You can select your fruits when you have many olives, but if there are only some of them, you just don’t have many options.”

For the cur­rent year, we have high hopes,” he added. We worked so much, and with the expe­ri­ence, we focused on prun­ing and mod­u­lat­ing fer­til­iza­tion, know­ing that this year could be an on-year,” he added.

Climatic chal­lenges abounded for Roveglio as well, a small olive oil pro­ducer near Lake Como in Lombardy.

Roveglio is expand­ing its oper­a­tions in an area char­ac­ter­ized by steep slopes, and 45-degree ter­races where ancient olive trees thrive and suc­cess­fully con­front weather extremes requires expe­ri­ence and hard work.

Roveglio won a Gold Award for its Campi Alti extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced with a com­bi­na­tion of Frantoio and Pendolino olives.

My fam­ily has been here since 1880,” owner Paul Willan told Olive Oil Times. In the last 20 years, we began expand­ing olive oil pro­duc­tion, grow­ing from 100 to 1,000 trees.”

We are lucky because our prod­ucts sport very low acid­ity lev­els, which I attribute to the soil,” he added. We are in the Alps, and the cli­mate is very spe­cial in how it com­bines with the land. In such a north­ern area, at an alti­tude of 385 meters upon sea level, this com­bi­na­tion yields our extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Roveglio’s cus­tomers mainly com­prise the many hotels and restau­rants that dot Lake Como’s coun­try­side, a highly touris­tic area.


Photo: Roveglio

This area always had a voca­tion for olive grow­ing, and that is why in our small vil­lage, there is an excel­lent olive oil mill,” Willan said. Still, agri­cul­tural areas on our hill were aban­doned over time, and we are now work­ing to recover those aban­doned ter­races, clean­ing up bram­bles and veg­e­ta­tion to restore farm­ing activ­i­ties.”

However, cop­ing with the chal­lenges of steep slope agri­cul­ture is not the only chal­lenge the com­pany faces in pro­duc­ing its oil.


Two years ago, we had a mas­sive inva­sion of mar­morated brown spit­tle­bug,” Willan said. They attacked all the fruits and destroyed our whole pro­duc­tion. All of our olives ended up on the grass.”

Then there is the weather like what has hap­pened this sea­son, with four months in win­ter with­out rain­fall,” he added. That led to great stress for the olive trees and a never-seen-before flow­er­ing. Then at the begin­ning of June, a major hail­storm came in, at least halv­ing the num­ber of flow­ers. That is why we do not know how this year will be.”

To the south of Lombardy, in Emilia-Romagna, Emilia Food Love earned a sec­ond-con­sec­u­tive Gold Award for its Colline di Romagna brand, a del­i­cate blend.

Winning such an award for us is a great reward and the best con­fir­ma­tion of the good work to which we are com­mit­ted,” Andrea Magnone, co-owner of Emilia Food Love, told Olive Oil Times.

By send­ing our extra vir­gin olive oil to the com­pe­ti­tion, we had hoped that our work would be acknowl­edged,” he added. The Gold Award allows us to present our work to our cus­tomers. They can see how qual­ity does not come by chance.”

The com­pany exports a selec­tion of high-end food prod­ucts from the region.

We tried to find the extra vir­gin olive oil which could express the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of our land,” Magnone said. We went for the higher qual­ity of the Colline di Romagna PDO.”

In unique mar­kets, such as the United States, we see a lot of Italian-sound­ing prod­ucts that seem to be pro­duced in Italy but are not,” he added. Thanks to these awards and cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, we can present our cus­tomers with a high-qual­ity prod­uct that is for­mally acknowl­edged. What we see with our cus­tomers is that many buy out of curios­ity and then come back for bulk pur­chases.”

In the neigh­bor­ing Veneto region, Frantoio Bonamini won a Gold Award for its Vert De Vertes, a medium blend that comes exclu­sively from the early har­vest of green olives.

It has been such a big reward to win the Gold Award, as this is the first time we sent this extra vir­gin olive oil of ours,” Sabrina Bonamini, co-owner of the com­pany, told Olive Oil Times.

The pro­ducer sees the award as a con­fir­ma­tion of its high-qual­ity prod­ucts. At pre­vi­ous edi­tions of the com­pe­ti­tion, Frantoio Bonamini was awarded Gold for its Valpolicella PDO.

Today, Frantoio Bonamini com­prises approx­i­mately 20 hectares of olive trees. Unlike other Italian regions, such as Puglia, most olive groves in Veneto are small and sep­a­rate from one another. Still, Bonamini is expand­ing its pro­duc­tion area every year.

A large por­tion of olive grow­ers in our region are very small pro­duc­ers, with no more than one hectare or 1.5 hectares of land,” Bonamini said. They are often older peo­ple as most of the younger gen­er­a­tions are com­mit­ted to dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties.”

We feel we have a mis­sion to con­nect with those own­ers, even­tu­ally buy­ing the land or rent­ing it, with the goal to man­age the trees and, when pos­si­ble, plant new ones,” she con­cluded.


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