Sustainability Key to Success of Central Italy’s Award-Winning Producers

Producers from Central Italy reflected on success at the 2022 NYIOOC and looked ahead to the coming harvest.

Umbria, Italy
Sep. 13, 2022
By Ylenia Granitto
Umbria, Italy

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


Producers from cen­tral Italy were undis­puted pro­tag­o­nists at the 2022 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition. Once again, they earned many awards as a result of their care for the land and focus on the sus­tain­able use of resources.

Olive grow­ers with a long story of suc­cesses were joined by first-time win­ners, all of whom are aware of the cru­cial role farm­ers play as pro­tec­tors of the envi­ron­ment.

We are thrilled to have won this pres­ti­gious award,” said Laurence Deprez Zenezini, of Cultura Viva, after receiv­ing a Gold Award for her Le Clarisse blend.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils from Italy

Our ref­er­ence mar­ket is the United States, and this pushed us to par­tic­i­pate in the NYIOOC, which is an impor­tant show­case for the inter­na­tional mar­ket,” she added.

After liv­ing in many coun­tries around the world, she set­tled in Umbria with her fam­ily. Last year, in June, we attended a course for olive oil tasters, and in October, we car­ried out our very first har­vest,” she said.

Located in Collazzone, in the province of Perugia, her prop­erty includes a small ham­let with the for­mer monastery of the Poor Clares, from which the name of the oil comes and a farm­house sur­rounded by 40 olive trees. Another 600 plants of Moraiolo, Leccino and Frantoio, are spread over the hill below.

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Co-founder Stefano Zenezini harvesting olives at Cultura Viva

The first project was to recover this place,” Deprez Zenezini said. Then we started prun­ing the trees doing con­sis­tent reform work. Last year, also due to weather issues, we har­vested 25 per­cent of the capac­ity of the grove.”

They recently added a new plot with 120 trees of the Don Carlo vari­ety, planted in a tra­di­tional pat­tern to pre­serve the orig­i­nal land­scape shape. Protection of the land and its bio­di­ver­sity under­lies the vision of Cultura Viva, which means liv­ing cul­ture.

We want to make cul­ture,” Deprez Zenezini said. With the olive leaves from har­vest and prun­ing, we also pro­duce a unique kom­bucha. In doing this, my hus­band Stefano and I are sup­ported by our two chil­dren, who help us with the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of the prod­ucts.”

Our daugh­ter cre­ated the pack­ag­ing of Le Clarisse through which we want to express purity, har­mony, and sim­plic­ity,” she added.

Following the prin­ci­ples of regen­er­a­tive agri­cul­ture, the fam­ily com­pany has adopted a cir­cu­lar econ­omy approach, where noth­ing goes to waste and every­thing is reused, includ­ing rain­wa­ter.

Drought is now the main prob­lem,” Deprez Zenezini said. Considering the ris­ing pro­duc­tion costs, we are aware that we have started at a com­plex time. Yet we are very con­fi­dent in the future and, also build­ing on these suc­cesses, we are look­ing for­ward to the upcom­ing har­vest.”

Along with first-time recip­i­ents, long­time NYIOOC win­ners from cen­tral Italy cel­e­brated suc­cess at the world’s largest olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion.

Among these were the pro­duc­ers from Domenica Fiore, also in Umbria, who earned three Gold Awards for their Olio Novello, Novello di Notte and Olio Reserva brands.

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Nightime harvesting at Domenica Fiore

Once again, this year, we have man­aged to cre­ate high-pro­file prod­ucts,” Cesare Bianchini told Olive Oil Times. We are very happy with this result that makes us very proud.”

A mas­ter miller and blender, Bianchini fol­lows the whole pro­duc­tion process of the multi-awarded blends.

We col­lect the dif­fer­ent vari­eties – Leccino, Frantoio, Moraiolo, and Canino – sep­a­rately,” he said. We care­fully com­bine them later to cre­ate bal­anced and com­plex sen­sory pro­files that we could not obtain by ran­domly mix­ing the vari­eties.”

The olive trees thrive opti­mally at 400 meters above sea level in rich, sandy soil – mil­lions of years ago, prob­a­bly in the Plio-Pleistocene era, the land that hosts these orchards was a seabed, and it is still pos­si­ble to find ancient shells in the ground.

After har­vest­ing, the fruits are crushed in the com­pany mill, which is equipped with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy. After the extrac­tion, the by-prod­ucts are used as nat­ural com­post.

We spread the wet residue as a fer­til­izer for our groves,” Bianchini said. We have cre­ated a cir­cu­lar sys­tem in which wastes are reused.”

The intense heat of the past months forced Domenica Fiore’s team to carry out emer­gency irri­ga­tion and use kaolin pow­der as a cor­rob­o­rant to avoid the exces­sive inso­la­tion of the plants. This resulted in more work but enabled them to have healthy olives ahead of the har­vest.

Veraison in Leccino and Frantoio usu­ally occurs early,” Bianchini said. Since day­time tem­per­a­tures can still exceed 25 °C at the end of September, it can be a prob­lem. This prompted us to sched­ule part of the har­vest at night, with lower tem­per­a­tures.”

Night oper­a­tions offer advan­tages dur­ing the extrac­tion, while the col­lec­tion of fruits is more com­pli­cated,” he added. Extra atten­tion is required dur­ing the oper­a­tions in the dark, for which we must use a light tower. However, the result is excel­lent and makes us delighted, since we obtain an excel­lent prod­uct that is suc­cess­ful in the mar­ket.”

In Lazio, Paolo de Filippis received a Gold Award for his Itrana mono­va­ri­etal pro­duced on the Carroccia Campodimele estate.

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Award-winning results from polyculture on the Carroccia Campodimele estate

Obtaining this award is the great­est sat­is­fac­tion for a farm like ours,” he said. We are deter­mined to remain a niche com­pany. Since our ref­er­ence mar­ket is abroad, espe­cially in Germany, we have entrusted our extra vir­gin olive oil to the NYIOOC for its world­wide rep­u­ta­tion.”

Located between the towns of Lenola and Campodimele, in the province of Latina, the prop­erty com­prises rolling hills held up by ancient dry stone walls, giv­ing the land­scape an evoca­tive beauty.

Most of our olive trees are arranged on the ter­races,” de Filippis said. They are inter­spersed with sev­eral types of plum trees, quinces, almonds, wal­nuts and aro­matic plants, espe­cially laven­der and rose­mary. ”

We con­sider these impor­tant to attract pol­li­nat­ing insects and will use them to pro­duce essen­tial oils,” he added.

Several fig trees com­plete the com­po­si­tion of the orchard. The figs are har­vested and dried for the Christmas period and used fresh to make jam.

The sus­tain­able man­age­ment of the prop­erty, accord­ing to the prin­ci­ples of poly­cul­ture, pro­motes a rich bio­di­ver­sity,” de Filippis said.

My daugh­ter is in charge of the com­pa­ny’s mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, through which we aim to con­vey our organic voca­tion and com­mit­ment to sus­tain­abil­ity,” he added. Even our bot­tle is cre­ated in an eco-friendly way, with details in Murano glass and cork that replace plas­tic.”

Ahead of the cur­rent har­vest, Lazio has faced the same chal­lenges caused by the per­va­sive drought, result­ing in a lower vol­ume of olives.

I think the future will see the intro­duc­tion of rain­wa­ter recov­ery sys­tems,” he said. We are orga­niz­ing our­selves as pro­duc­ers, but I think it is cru­cial that also the local and state gov­ern­ments sup­port us in this action.”

Nevertheless, his Itrana fruits are now healthy after being refreshed by timely late-sum­mer rains that immensely helped them recover from the water stress of the pre­vi­ous months.

Around mid-October, when verai­son will reach 20 to 30 per­cent, we should start the har­vest,” de Filippis said. This is the trend of the area, where most pro­duc­ers are now focused on high qual­ity, obtain­ing prod­ucts with excel­lent organolep­tic pro­files.”


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