Patience and Investment Yield Award-Winning Olive Oil from Hills of Verona

The Cordioli family continues to overcome climatic challenges to produce their extra virgin olive oils in one of the world’s northernmost olive-growing regions.

Abandoned marogne before their restoration (Photo: Cordioli)
By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 30, 2023 15:01 UTC
Abandoned marogne before their restoration (Photo: Cordioli)

The Cordioli fam­ily, olive oil pro­duc­ers near Verona, Italy, won a Gold Award at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition. It was the third time their extra vir­gin olive oils had secured the indus­try’s most cov­eted award.

Growing olives is work for crazy peo­ple. It is spir­i­tu­ally sat­is­fy­ing, but it’s very hard work, even harder when there are dra­matic weather events.- Ceil Friedman, co-owner, Cordioli

We are very happy with the award, as it acknowl­edges all the pas­sion and the work we as small pro­duc­ers put into olive grow­ing all year round,” co-owner Ceil Friedman told Olive Oil Times.

Cordioli’s olive trees cope with the chal­leng­ing weather con­di­tions of the north­ern Veneto region, where olive trees bear fewer fruits than in Italy’s cen­tral and south­ern regions. We never looked for quan­tity, so we put all our efforts into qual­ity,” Friedman said.

See Also:Producer Profiles

Besides work in the groves, you are depen­dent on a few ele­ments you can con­trol, and to many more, you can­not con­trol at all, such as the cli­mate,” Friedman said. It is patient work of eco­nomic com­mit­ment and, of course, time,” she added.

Veneto was once con­sid­ered the most north­ern region in the world to grow olive trees, with the unique loca­tion adding dis­tinc­tive and sur­pris­ing fla­vors to locally pro­duced olive oil.

The wide vari­a­tion in the rel­a­tively small pro­duc­ing region, where approx­i­mately 5,000 hectares of olive trees are planted, has been rec­og­nized with four Protected Designation of Origin cer­ti­fi­ca­tions estab­lished by the European Union.

Cordioli’s trees pop­u­late three sep­a­rate lots, each with spe­cific cul­ti­vars, some of which thrived on Verona’s hills for cen­turies, includ­ing the Grignano and Favarol vari­eties. From each lot, the com­pany pro­duces a dif­fer­ent blend.

This year’s win­ning blend is Campo delle Marogne, an extra vir­gin olive oil named after the dry stone walls known as marogne, a typ­i­cal fea­ture of the local land­scape. The walls bor­der farm­land ter­races, known as campo.


Co-owner Erminio Cordioli restored the marogne in the company’s terraced groves.

The dry walls pro­tect the soil from ero­sion caused by rain­wa­ter, and the marogne stones have been a cru­cial part of local agri­cul­ture for hun­dreds of years, pro­vid­ing and main­tain­ing fer­tile soil across gen­er­a­tions.

The roots of the olive trees con­tribute to the sta­bil­ity of the ter­races. Since the begin­ning, my hus­band, who works in con­struc­tion, ded­i­cated him­self to restor­ing the marogne in our orchard, as they not only pro­tect the soil from rain­wa­ter ero­sion, they are also an essen­tial piece of his­tory of the area,” Friedman said.

We restored 11 great marogne walls,” she added. Some of them are really large walls. It was a very big inter­ven­tion in the grove. It was also a very rel­e­vant eco­nomic com­mit­ment for us.”

Campo delle Marogne’s sur­face slightly exceeds 1 hectare, home to approx­i­mately 200 olive trees; some were planted more than 150 years ago.

Friedman and her hus­band Erminio Cordioli began tak­ing care of the olive trees with a pro­fes­sional approach a few decades ago when her father-in-law passed away, leav­ing behind an olive grove they named Campo Storico (his­tor­i­cal grove) with about 300 olive trees.


Erminio Cordioli and Cecil Friedman

This choice of ours, olive oil pro­duc­tion, was quite unusual in an area well known for its wines, such as Valpolicella,” Friedman said. Wine tends to deliver more prof­its, which is also why the pre­vi­ous own­ers sold us a small olive grove of theirs a few years ago.”

They were more inter­ested in the large vine­yards they man­age,” she added. Should one look at the eco­nom­ics of the area, only a few would focus on olive oil mak­ing.”

Over time, Campo delle Marogne was added to the family’s orchards, with a third area where more than 180 new olive trees of sev­eral vari­eties, includ­ing Itrana, were planted.


For the first time this year, Cordioli crafted an Itrana olive oil, its Grand Cru Augusto brand, named after Erminio’s father, to whom it is ded­i­cated.

It has been just a small pro­duc­tion, no more than 100 bot­tles, but we plan to make it every year to cel­e­brate Augusto’s mem­ory,” she said. Itrana is such an extra­or­di­nary cul­ti­var.”

We believe that the orig­i­nal pro­pri­etor of Campo delle Marogne was an afflu­ent farmer of his time and had the means to set up a spe­cial orchard,” Friedman added. While we only have local cul­ti­vars in Campo Storico, Campo delle Marogne is also home to olive trees from dif­fer­ent regions, such as Frantoio and some Moraiolo. There is even Coratina and just a lit­tle bit of Grignano.”

According to the pro­ducer, a well-man­aged orchard in the area does not require chem­i­cal prod­ucts. Even if we are not yet cer­ti­fied as organic, that is our approach to olive oil mak­ing, for the well­be­ing of our fam­ily and cus­tomers,” she said.


Along with restoring historical features, Cordioli follow strictly organi practices.

Campo delle Marogne is also a rain­fed orchard. Given the chal­leng­ing weather in the last sea­son, we pro­vided the trees with some emer­gency irri­ga­tion,” Friedman said, not­ing how a care­ful day-by-day approach is essen­tial to achieve max­i­mum qual­ity.

Across the last 14 har­vests, Cordioli has relied on an expert agron­o­mist. Every day, she tastes the new olive oil being pro­duced. By doing this, she can sug­gest to the olive miller some adjust­ments that might be applied in the mill dur­ing extrac­tion to reach the max­i­mum qual­ity,” she said.

Friedman, also a cer­ti­fied olive oil taster, noted how this con­tin­u­ous dia­logue with the agron­o­mist allows the farm to craft their blends with the pro­file and char­ac­ter they intend to achieve year after year. Olive oil is then stored in argon-filled steel tanks, and bot­tling hap­pens only in small lots when needed,” she said.

Besides sales to local shops and restau­rants, Cordioli’s olive oil is dis­trib­uted by a cou­ple of shops in the United States, where Cordioli also sells directly.

According to Friedman, a more recent trend has seen cus­tomers com­ing from north­ern European coun­tries, such as Norway, Germany, Austria and France.

Sometimes you feel that abroad there is even more appre­ci­a­tion for such high-qual­ity prod­ucts than here, even if here we have some very affec­tion­ate cus­tomers that totally under­stand high qual­ity,” she said.

2022 has been a very spe­cial year full of awards and acknowl­edg­ments for our work,” Friedman added.

In 2020 the farm pro­duced more than 2,000 liters of olive oil, and 1,500 were pro­duced last year. Still, in 2021, almost no olive oil was pro­duced due to a severe hail­storm and pow­er­ful winds.

We can only hope every sea­son will be like 2022, but of course, much of that is on the shoul­ders of Mother Nature,” Friedman said. The cli­mate is chang­ing tremen­dously over the years, so every year is a dif­fer­ent adven­ture.”

I am sure I am not the only one to say that grow­ing olives is work for crazy peo­ple,” she added. It is spir­i­tu­ally sat­is­fy­ing, but it’s very hard work, even harder when there are dra­matic weather events.”

Such impacts affect us so much,” Friedman con­cluded. It is so heart­break­ing when you see how all your work falling on the ground under the impact of a new extreme weather event.”

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