Gionni and Paolo Pruneti at the mill

Entering into a mill equipped with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, there is an old black and white pho­to­graph of a group of peo­ple in their work clothes. Among the fig­ures in the pic­ture are two young chil­dren with sweet but sharp eyes.

Gionni Pruneti is one of these chil­dren and has come a long way since the photo was taken. Pruneti offi­cially started man­ag­ing the olive press at the age of 18, but started work­ing with the machin­ery in the mill from a much ear­lier age.

“I have a video of me crush­ing olives late at night when I was in mid­dle school,” said the pro­ducer of the monocul­ti­var Pruneti Frantoio, which has won three Gold Awards and one Silver at the past four edi­tions of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition. “My brother, Paolo, and I learned every­thing from my grand­fa­ther, who involved us in this activ­ity, encour­ag­ing us to respect our com­mit­ments and act respon­si­bly toward co-work­ers and cus­tomers.”

We choose these art­works to con­vey the idea that our prod­ucts stem from know-how, that their qual­ity orig­i­nates from the craft we have in our hands.- Gionni Pruneti, co-owner Prineti

Driving along the roads of Chianti, a rural region of Tuscany, in the direc­tion of the com­pany land pro­vides stun­ning views out over the count­less olive trees and vines.

“A spe­cial fea­ture of this area is the cul­ti­va­tion of irises,” Pruneti said.

The irises used to grow nat­u­rally on the land and only began to be cul­ti­vated after their med­i­c­i­nal val­ues were noticed by local fri­ars. Later on, Caterina de Medici intro­duced irises to France and they became a pri­mary ingre­di­ent in the per­fume indus­try. Since then, the use of irises has spread across the world and the flow­er­ing plant is now used in the phy­tother­apy and cos­me­tol­ogy indus­tries as well.

See more: Producer Profiles

“My fam­ily has worked in agri­cul­ture for gen­er­a­tions,” Pruneti said. “They cul­ti­vated sev­eral hor­ti­cul­tural prod­ucts and used to sell them at the mar­ket in Florence, until the mid-1800s, when they focused on these two local prod­ucts: olive oil and irises.”

Their olive groves are char­ac­ter­ized by the pres­ence of the plant, which blooms dur­ing the spring and pro­vides a touch of pale pur­ple-vio­let to the orchards.

“They must remain in the ground for four years, then we col­lect and process the rhi­zomes, which are ready after four more years,” Pruneti said. “It takes eight years for the rhi­zomes to be ready. Patience is impor­tant to pro­duce qual­ity.”

The organic and sus­tain­able man­age­ment of the land favors a rich bio­di­ver­sity. All sorts of plants are left grow­ing undis­turbed as cover crop and along the bor­ders of the orchard.

“Over the years, we increased the pro­duc­tion and now man­age 26,000 olive trees scat­tered over 85 hectares (210 acres),” Pruneti said. “In addi­tion, I con­tin­ued to upgrade our mill, as the machin­ery is my pas­sion, and today it has the lat­est tech­nolo­gies and all the require­ments to work at the high­est degree of accu­racy.”

Pruneti added that when he and his brother bot­tled their first mono­va­ri­etal oils, they were not well known by the local con­sumers.

“In 2001, our Leccino was regarded with mis­trust,” he said. “I started to pro­duce oil from a sin­gle vari­ety basi­cally for two rea­sons. First, with the tra­di­tional sys­tem, I had prob­lems when I had to crush cer­tain vari­eties together, for exam­ple, Leccino that has a soft pulp with Ghiacciola, which is harder.”

The mod­ern mill had been set up just a year prior to Pruneti’s suc­cess­ful exper­i­ment with mono­va­ri­etal oils.

“I have to say that it was not easy to dis­card mill­stones and presses. I mean, it is a mat­ter of the heart,” Pruneti said, adding that the sec­ond rea­son for look­ing beyond the blends relates to his love for good food.

Gionni and Paolo Pruneti in their mod­ern mill.

“I was try­ing to make a lighter extra vir­gin olive oil for fish dishes,” he said. “Now, it is taken for granted, but at the time, it was ground­break­ing.”

“I owe the improve­ment of the first oils I pro­duced to Nanni Montorselli, a taster and tech­ni­cian who was respon­si­ble for the Chianti Classico PDO,” Pruneti con­tin­ued. “His heart­felt crit­i­cism tore me apart, but it gave me the push I needed to reach the high­est qual­ity lev­els. I think that if you want to pro­duce qual­ity, you must always make self-crit­i­cism and ques­tion your­self, in addi­tion to pay­ing full atten­tion to all the details.”

Pruneti described their activ­ity as “arti­sanal,” which is also the con­cept behind the images on the labels of their mono­va­ri­etals.

“We choose these art­works – paint­ings from the work­shops of Tuscan artists, who were crafts­men – to con­vey the idea that our prod­ucts stem from know-how, that their qual­ity orig­i­nates from the craft we have in our hands,” he said.

Picking up a hand­ful of earth at the foot of the trees, he demon­strated how this part of the farm­land is stony, allow­ing for good drainage. On the other side, the soil is rich in clay. Different ter­rains allow Pruneti to enrich his olive oil pro­duc­tion by cul­ti­vat­ing many dif­fer­ent vari­eties: Frantoio, Moraiolo, Leccino, Correggiolo, Pendolino, Leccio del Corno, Maurino, Leccione, Rossellino and Cipressino, among oth­ers.

Irises in bloom among the olive trees

“Every year, I put aside half a dozen drums of a sin­gle vari­ety pro­duced in dif­fer­ent plots,” he said. “We taste them, com­par­ing and explor­ing the dif­fer­ent out­comes. These dif­fer based on ele­ments such as soil and expo­sure as well as the milling process, which include the pos­si­bil­ity of using three dif­fer­ent crush­ers, and sev­eral other fac­tors includ­ing the tem­per­a­ture… Dealing prop­erly with all these fac­tors con­tributes to the pro­duc­tion of the extra vir­gin olive oil you want to obtain.”

Pruneti’s goal is to man­age the whole sup­ply chain in order to guar­an­tee every stage of the pro­duc­tion process.

“My brother and I achieved this, know­ing that, from a busi­ness point of view, it is very risky, since each pro­duc­tion phase comes with its own set of risks,” he said. “However, this is a plus that con­tributes to the qual­ity and offers addi­tional guar­an­tees for the con­sumer.”

With the open­ing of the Pruneti Extra Gallery, the goal to com­plete the pro­duc­tion cycle was accom­plished.

In the town of Greve, in Chianti, there is a place designed to lead pro­fes­sion­als and enthu­si­asts on a jour­ney through qual­ity.

Here, just like in a gallery of con­tem­po­rary art, the Pruneti extra vir­gin olive oils and the prod­ucts of the farm – wine, irises and saf­fron – are enhanced by a com­bi­na­tion of pair­ings, each of which is like a unique pic­ture com­posed of col­ors, scents, and fla­vors that nar­rate the nuances of this beau­ti­ful ter­ri­tory.

The extra vir­gin olive oils are the core ingre­di­ents of tast­ing menus with com­bi­na­tions designed to find the per­fect pair­ing in every sea­son. Vegetables, cheeses, soups, meats, bis­cuits, ice cream and cock­tails are all paired with the per­fect extra vir­gin olive oil in the pic­turesque set­ting.

The gallery, which pro­vides vis­i­tors with an immer­sive expe­ri­ence into the cre­ation of the far­m’s var­i­ous prod­ucts, is a work of art and sits at the cen­ter of a wide, airy space made up of clean, mod­ern but warm lines. A win­dow on the ancient brick pave­ment dis­plays the old tools used by Pruneti’s ances­tors on the farm as if to show that in this place strong roots have given life to healthy fruits.

“This is an extra gallery, unique in its kind,” Pruneti said. “We want to express the excel­lence of our prod­ucts through an enthralling sen­sory expe­ri­ence than can be unfor­get­table.”



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