Olive Varieties

From His Sandy Perch, Domenica Fiore's Cesare Bianchini Aims Even Higher

We met the producer Cesare Bianchini to discover what is behind Domenica Fiore and we ended up in an olive grove that evokes an ancient shore, with sand and shells.

Cesare Bianchini
Jul. 25, 2017
By Ylenia Granitto
Cesare Bianchini

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Domenica Fiore orchards lie on the gentle slopes that look over the city of Orvieto. This good expo­sure is prob­a­bly among the fac­tors which led over the years to the cre­ation of great extra virgin olive oils, which today come from 10,000 Leccino, Moraiolo, Frantoio and Canino trees between 25 and 70 years of age.

Environment must be respected — this posi­tion and these char­ac­ter­is­tics pro­vide us the ideal con­di­tions to carry out an even more respect­ful man­age­ment of our olive groves.- Cesare Bianchini, Domenica Fiore

“Our prod­ucts are the fruit of care and ded­i­ca­tion, but nature also plays a fun­da­men­tal role in qual­ity,” said the skill­ful pro­ducer Cesare Bianchini after the stun­ning suc­cess of the com­pany at the 2017 NYIOOC.
See more: The Best Olive Oils for 2017
Domenica Fiore’s story began around the year 2000, when he man­aged some olive trees with Kim Galavan in Orvieto. With a view to go beyond the min­i­mum tar­gets of yield and quan­tity, he started to deepen the dif­fer­ent atti­tudes of vari­eties and to study all of the fac­tors that deter­mine the final result. He attended courses and became a skilled taster.

Meanwhile, Galavan intro­duced Bianchini to the Canadian busi­ness­man Frank Giustra, who sent the Orvieto oils every year for Christmas gifts to his friends.

One day, Giustra offered a blind tast­ing for pop­u­lar Canadian chefs. Bianchini’s oil was voted the best, and from that moment they started talk­ing about a part­ner­ship to main­tain high qual­ity and larger quan­ti­ties, and the team con­sid­ered the pur­chase of new farm­land.

In 2010, Domenica Fiore offi­cially started with five olive groves.

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“Our basic phi­los­o­phy was that we should make the best extra virgin olive oil and I knew we could do a good job, but I was skep­ti­cal,” Bianchini said, reveal­ing that his doubts dis­ap­peared when in 2013 they par­tic­i­pated in the first edi­tion of NYIOOC and achieved a Best in Class with Olio Reserva.

Cesare Bianchini

“It was not only a great sat­is­fac­tion but a real turn­ing point,” Bianchini said, trying to explain the excite­ment of those days.

Then, at the 2014 NYIOOC they won two Gold Awards with Olio Reserva and Olio Novello and a Best in Class with Olio Monaco. “I knew at that point that our qual­ity was a cer­tainty,” he unpre­ten­tiously affirmed.

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After another great season in 2016 crowned with three Gold Medal, Domenica Fiore had a stag­ger­ing suc­cess at 2017 NYIOOC, obtain­ing four Gold Awards with Olio Classico, Olio Novello, Olio Monaco and Olio Veritas, and a Best in Class with Olio Reserva.

We drove through the farm, where olive groves alter­nate with vine­yards and woods of tall trees. Oaks, holm oaks, chest­nuts and other Mediterranean trees and plants create an ideal micro­cli­mate and con­sti­tute a nat­ural bar­rier to any treat­ments used by farm­ers nearby.

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We went fur­ther up the hill to almost 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level, enjoy­ing the won­der­ful view and the par­tic­u­lar appear­ance of olive trees, due to a light layer of kaolin. It was recently sprayed to help limit the olive fly’s attack and dampen the expo­sure to the sun.

As you go among the olive trees, you get the feel­ing that roots are embed­ded in a beach. The tex­ture of the soil is fine and sandy, com­posed of a gently yel­low­ish-white powder which dust your shoes like it was dry sand. But most sur­pris­ingly, the ground is extra­or­di­nar­ily sprin­kled with seashell frag­ments.

In that moment, I under­stood the reason for the pat­tern on the labels of Domenica Fiore’s bot­tles — olive trees orig­i­nate from a ground made up of these crea­tures of the sea.

Once, there used to be a sea shore here. While Bianchini bent down to show me the par­tic­u­lar debris that prob­a­bly dates back to Plio-Pleistocene, we noted some­thing which was stick­ing out from the ground. We del­i­cately dug it up and we dis­cov­ered an intact and well-pre­served fossil bivalve mol­lusk of about 15 cen­time­ters (6 inches).

A bivalve fossil found on the Domenica Fiore farm

It was extra­or­di­nary to come face to face with this wit­ness to the ori­gins and breathe the sea air of a coast that mil­lions of years ago lived in these lands, which now are sev­eral miles away from the sea. A myriad of fossil frag­ments and min­er­als now con­sti­tute and enrich this sandy and well-drained soil.

“Environment must be respected — this posi­tion and these char­ac­ter­is­tics pro­vide us the ideal con­di­tions to carry out an even more respect­ful man­age­ment of our olive groves,” said Bianchini. “We con­duct an organic man­age­ment, reusing prun­ing remains as well as milling byprod­ucts to fer­til­ize the ground, cre­at­ing a vir­tu­ous closed circle,” he explained.

“To main­tain a very high qual­ity requires high costs but gives great sat­is­fac­tions,” the pro­ducer affirmed and spec­i­fied that they carry out har­vest based on vari­eties and then blend the dif­fer­ent mono­va­ri­etals, com­bin­ing them in dif­fer­ent per­cent­ages. “I per­son­ally take care of this aspect and try to main­tain a bal­ance in the sen­so­r­ial aspect of extra virgin olive oils over the years,” he pointed out.

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Viewing Orvieto from the Domenica Fiore farm

The extracted oil is imme­di­ately stored and con­di­tioned with nitro­gen. They adopted a spe­cial stain­less-steel bottle devel­oped by the University of Florence in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Marco Mugelli. It allows an opti­mal preser­va­tion com­pletely avoid­ing oxi­da­tion, and it is now their dis­tinc­tive image. In addi­tion, all the bot­tles are num­bered and signed by Cesare Bianchini, as farmer of the com­pany.

As we go down the hill, we stop at a nice build­ing under con­struc­tion, which within a month will host a new mill.

“Domenica Fiore was born as the story of three friends, and then became a story of pas­sion and qual­ity,” said Kim Galavan, reached on the phone in Vancouver.

“I can’t wait to see the work of the new facil­ity,” she said, adding that she will be here in time for the har­vest. “What I see about Domenica Fiore is pas­sion and com­mit­ment to pro­duce only the very best with hard work, every year, with­out com­pro­mise,” she said.

“Harvest is our favorite time of the year. There is noth­ing more excit­ing than being present at the first extrac­tion of olive oil. It comes out in its bril­liant, green emer­ald color, while every­one is star­ing at that new prod­uct pour­ing out, wait­ing to taste the fruit of a year of hard but pas­sion­ate work.”

Behind the name of Domenica Fiore is Frank Giustra’s mother. She is Italian, from Calabria…and very proud.