Frescobaldi

“The Frescobaldi com­pany has seven hun­dred years of his­tory,” the youngest mem­ber of the thir­ti­eth gen­er­a­tion of Tuscan pro­duc­ers, Matteo Frescobaldi said, as we reached an idyl­lic van­tage point over gen­tly slop­ing hills blan­keted with vines and olive trees. “This is the old­est fam­ily-owned farm, and our story began here in 1300, closely inter­twined with that of the ter­ri­tory.”

At Tenuta Castiglioni, 30 hectares of (74 acres) of olive groves, mainly com­posed of Frantoio plants, are inter­spersed with arable crops like wheat and corn, and vines for the pro­duc­tion of Chianti.

“In the 1990s we planted some exper­i­men­tal vari­eties and, over the last decade, we added a plot devoted to research and devel­op­ment,” said the man­ager in charge of the fam­i­ly’s olive oil busi­ness since 2017.
See more: The Best Olive Oils from Tuscany

This year, thanks to a favor­able expo­sure, the orchards located in the west­ern part of the prop­erty gave healthy fruits. However, the dif­fer­ent posi­tion­ing of their farm­lands with var­ied soils and micro-cli­mates, and alti­tudes rang­ing from 150 to 500 meters (493 to 1,640 feet) allows them to have a fairly con­stant pro­duc­tiv­ity every year. “According to the sea­son, we make a selec­tion of the best fruits har­vested in our olive groves and use them in our Laudemio,” Frescobaldi explained.

As we walked through the flour­ish­ing plants rooted in soft, clayey soil, he pointed out that this year, despite a rainy May and a delay in flow­er­ing which led to small drops on the high­est groves, they obtained sub­stan­tial vol­umes over­all, and the start of the har­vest in mid-October found many lush trees and fruits in great shape.

As we headed east, toward the Tenuta di Rèmole, the Tuscan farmer explained how these lands have evolved over the cen­turies and, dur­ing the 1950s and 60s, went through a process of mod­ern­iza­tion.

“Vittorio Frescobaldi and his two younger broth­ers, Leonardo and Ferdinando, which is my father, started a reor­ga­ni­za­tion that led to the cur­rent setup of the estates,” he explained. “If the 1970s were char­ac­ter­ized by a grow­ing inter­est in wine, and this led our com­pany to improve this sec­tor, the mid-80s was the turn­ing point for the extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Therefore, along with the desire to enhance the qual­ity of pro­duc­tion, a new con­tin­u­ous cycle mill became oper­a­tional in 1984. Soon after, how­ever, the great freeze of 1985 heav­ily dam­aged many of their groves. At that point, many farm­ers, here in the inland areas of Tuscany, were faced with the choice between focus­ing only on wine or restart­ing the pro­duc­tion of olive oil, to com­pete again with the indus­trial lead­ers of the sec­tor, Frescobaldi revealed.

Matteo Frescobaldi

“We made a deci­sion and applied to the olive oil the same phi­los­o­phy that we had imple­mented in wine for decades — improv­ing the pro­duc­tion through the con­cept of ter­ri­tory,” he explained. “I think this was the dawn of the qual­i­ta­tive con­cept of the extra vir­gin olive oil, which would become a prod­uct iden­ti­fied by the ori­gin and spe­cific pro­duc­tion meth­ods as it is today.”

Then, after the freeze, in some areas, the harmed olive trees were recov­ered or repro­duced through shoots, while in other plots, they planted new ones fol­low­ing more effi­cient pat­terns. The desire to make a qual­ity prod­uct bound with the ter­ri­tory was the decid­ing fac­tor for the birth of Laudemio.

Vittorio Frescobaldi was the project pro­moter and the founder of the group of twenty-one pro­duc­ers who cur­rently make up the Consortium Laudemio. “The name refers to our region and to pro­duc­tion guide­lines which meet the high­est stan­dards, includ­ing a tast­ing panel that guar­an­tees the high qual­ity of the prod­uct,” the brand man­ager pointed out. “Our first Laudemio was made in 1989.”

“We are farm­ers and every­thing we make comes from the lands of Tuscany, a mag­nif­i­cent, multi-faceted ter­ri­tory,” he con­tin­ued, high­light­ing that the many forms and nuances of the region are expressed in their motto, Cultivating the diver­sity of Tuscany.

“Each of our lands gives unique fruits which express rich bio­di­ver­sity,” he con­sid­ered. “Respecting and pro­tect­ing the ter­ri­tory is our main objec­tive, and it goes hand in hand with pro­duc­ing and pro­mot­ing high-qual­ity prod­ucts that rep­re­sent this price­less land.”

Their envi­ron­men­tally friendly approach to the olive groves is cou­pled with sus­tain­able man­age­ment of 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) of wood­land and they obtain energy from bio­mass plants. “We pro­duce more energy than we con­sume, thanks to the green power obtained by wood and other byprod­ucts such as pomace,” Frescobaldi spec­i­fied, adding that all the facil­i­ties are equipped with solar pan­els.

We reach the com­pany mill located in the Tenuta di Nipozzano, which adjoins an 80-hectare (189-acre) olive grove. The fruits from all of the farm­lands are deliv­ered here within a few hours from har­vest and the extra vir­gin olive oil obtained is selected and dou­ble fil­tered before becom­ing Laudemio. “We desire that our extra vir­gin olive oil is spicy, bright, and fresh for its entire shelf-life,” he pointed out.

Last sea­son, ideal weather con­di­tions led to a great prod­uct: herba­ceous aro­mas, arti­choke and rocket, and har­mony which is bright­ened up by a spicy hint that refresh­ingly per­sists. The 30th edi­tion of Frescobaldi Laudemio won a a Gold Award at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

“We were able to obtain that cov­eted bal­ance we always look for in our extra vir­gin olive oil thanks to the hard work of our tech­ni­cian and col­lab­o­ra­tors, which even in the most com­plex and dif­fi­cult moments cre­ated the best con­di­tions pos­si­ble for our olive trees,” Frescobaldi pointed out.

“Last year, very low tem­per­a­tures between the end of February and the begin­ning of March were reg­is­tered while our olive trees were still in veg­e­ta­tive rest,” he added. “It snowed a lot, and we had a record bloom when the snow melted.”

“On the other hand, this year, good weather con­di­tions in the spring favored a good fruit set­ting, and branches, already in September, were heavy with healthy dru­pes,” Frescobaldi con­sid­ered, adding that, thanks to timely har­vest­ing, they avoided the prob­lem of the olive fruit fly. After har­vest­ing, they till the soil and, in order to sup­ply it with use­ful ele­ments, sow legu­mi­nous plants, such as field bean, which grow along­side wild plants.

Glancing over the rows of olive trees, the eye embraces a mag­nif­i­cent view, a har­mo­nious blend of shapes and shades, where lim­ber­ing white roads and dark green rows of cypress serve as neat, gen­tle bor­ders between the streaked tones of the vine­yards and the sil­very hues of the groves, which are even more iri­des­cent in the light of sun­set.

“We could not do all this with­out tak­ing care of the beauty of our land,” Frescobaldi con­cluded. “I believe that good prod­ucts come from beau­ti­ful places, and beau­ti­ful places give good prod­ucts.”



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