Sustainability, Innovation Guide This Award-Winning Producer in Apulia

From trying out new production methods to transforming waste into renewable energy, the producers behind Frantoio Muraglia have found a winning combination.
The Muraglias: Francesco, Vincenzo, Savino Jr., Savino Sr.
Oct. 27, 2021
Paolo DeAndreis

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Sustainability is a life choice, as is sus­tain­able farm­ing, which can really make a dif­fer­ence,” Savino Muraglia, man­ag­ing direc­tor of Frantoio Muraglia, told Olive Oil Times.

The Muraglia fam­ily has been grow­ing olives for the last 160 years in the Apulian town of Andria.

We suc­ceeded in mak­ing Coratina extra vir­gin olive oil more pop­u­lar among those who some­what feared its nat­u­rally robust nature.- Savino Muraglia, man­ag­ing direc­tor, Frantoio Muraglia

By apply­ing agro­nomic tech­niques aimed at absorb­ing car­bon diox­ide and trans­form­ing veg­etable waste, farm­ers can min­i­mize the impact of their oper­a­tions on the envi­ron­ment,” he added.

See Also: Producer Profiles

Along with pro­duc­ing award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oil, the Italian com­pany is spear­head­ing research aimed at car­bon farm­ing, the goal of which is to cap­ture enough car­bon diox­ide to com­pen­sate for the com­pa­ny’s pro­duc­tion activ­i­ties.

Sustainability comes from the coun­try­side and what we can do as farm­ers for bio­di­ver­sity and envi­ron­ment, much more than what might be writ­ten on a cer­ti­fied label,” Muraglia said.

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The piv­otal role farm­ers can exert in cur­tail­ing cli­mate change is repeat­edly cited by the European Green Deal, and it is con­sid­ered of utmost impor­tance by the European Union’s Farm to Fork strat­egy.

While the lat­est Muraglia projects include a grow­ing role for renew­able energy sources in the next few years, the com­pany is cur­rently ana­lyz­ing eco-fer­til­iz­ers. The fer­til­iz­ers are pro­duced by the bio-diges­tion of the com­pa­ny’s waste byprod­ucts such as pomace and waste­water.

This is just an exam­ple of trans­form­ing the waste of our tra­di­tional oper­a­tions in inno­v­a­tive tools for farm­ing,” Muraglia said. Such a model does not only ben­e­fit the envi­ron­ment because of its eco-friendly nature, but it also cuts expenses many farm­ers face to buy fer­til­iz­ers.”

The com­pany recently inau­gu­rated a new oil mill, which dou­bles the poten­tial out­put per hour.

The dou­bled pro­duc­tive capac­ity is not meant to pro­duce twice the usual quan­ti­ties but to do that in half the time,” Muraglia said. That con­tributes to our effort to enhance the qual­ity of our prod­uct year after year.”

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Photo: Frantoio Muraglia

That sus­tain­abil­ity and inno­va­tion can lead to higher qual­ity is evi­dent in the many awards obtained by the Frantoio Muraglia extra vir­gin olive oils. At the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, its Denocciolato brand, a mono­va­ri­etal Coratina, once again won a Gold Award.

The oil’s name comes from the pit­ting of the olives before their trans­for­ma­tion, an oper­a­tion that gives Denocciolato its unique taste.

Six or seven years ago, we began exper­i­ment­ing with a tech­nique that was unseen in Puglia,” Muraglia said. By exclud­ing the stone, we end up elim­i­nat­ing the tan­nins while pre­serv­ing the polyphe­nols.”

The pit­ting oper­a­tion had been used in the past in Liguria and Tuscany to pre­serve polyphe­nols, which in some local cul­ti­vars such as Taggiasca or Moraiolo, might not be com­pa­ra­ble to Coratina’s con­tent. Still, such a tech­nique low­ers the yield.

With Coratina, it means that you lose around 30 per­cent of yield,” Muraglia said. It might seem too high a price for pre­serv­ing polyphe­nols in a cul­ti­var that is already extremely rich in polyphe­nols, but we do it for another rea­son. Pitting the olives gives our extra vir­gin olive oil a fruity and spicy and less edgy fla­vor.”

The idea was to cur­tail Coratina’s tra­di­tion­ally strong taste to offer a mild, fruity ver­sion.

We suc­ceeded in mak­ing Coratina extra vir­gin olive oil more pop­u­lar among those who some­what feared its nat­u­rally robust nature,” Muraglia added.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Italy

His com­pany pro­duces 10,000 liters of its Denocciolato annu­ally, 70 per­cent of which are bought by local fam­i­lies.

The com­pany earned its other Gold Award at the 2021 NYIOOC for another mono­va­ri­etal, its Gran Cru Tenuta Macchia di Rose. It is a smaller-scale pro­duc­tion, with about 2,000 bot­tles pro­duced each year, and comes from a small area of the com­pa­ny’s land in which the olives express a par­tic­u­lar and strong fla­vor.

I have tasted it for a few years, explor­ing over time how that note was expressed,” Muraglia said. Then I under­stood that it was to become a Cru, which could com­pare with the Crus of our friends in Tuscany and Umbria.”

The com­pa­ny’s research into new ways of pro­duc­ing its extra vir­gin olive oils arrived at a turn­ing point six or seven years ago when it began exper­i­ment­ing with the smok­ing process applied to its Coratina extra vir­gin olive oils.

We went through sev­eral years of lab test­ing to ver­ify the qual­ity and the char­ac­ter­is­tics of the result­ing extra vir­gin olive oil; to find the right smok­ing para­me­ters while deploy­ing tech­niques that were already suc­cess­fully used with food spe­cial­ties such as the Capocollo di Martina Franca ham,” Muraglia said.

That is how Olio Fumo (Smoke Oil) was born, smoked with beech wood in a ded­i­cated envi­ron­ment.

I believe it is the most ele­gant taste of all,” Muraglia said. Olio Fumo was ini­tially des­tined for a niche mar­ket, but it soon became a cher­ished ingre­di­ent for many.

We have Michelin-star hold­ers who use Olio Fumo for their may­on­naise,” he said. Chefs use it from pasta with pecorino and black pep­per, and a wide array of pizza mak­ers adopted it for their high-qual­ity piz­zas.”

While some of the com­pa­ny’s prod­ucts are shipped in bag-in-box con­tain­ers, which pro­tect the oil from light and oxy­gen, oth­ers have ended up in tele­vi­sion shows in Europe and United States because of their unique ceramic designs. They are eas­ily spot­ted in chefs’ kitchens.

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Photo: Frantoio Muraglia

The design of the bot­tles is so rel­e­vant to the mar­ket­ing of the prod­uct that the Apulian extra vir­gin olive oil com­pany ended up acquir­ing a local ceramic lab­o­ra­tory whose 15 artists are devoted to cre­at­ing new for­mats and col­ors for Muraglia’s ceram­ics.

The new olive har­vest­ing sea­son, which is now to begin­ning, will reward the com­pa­ny’s efforts, he said.

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Frantoio Muraglia

We expect a great year for Puglia, and we expect a very high-qual­ity olive oil,” added Muraglia, who is also pres­i­dent of the local chap­ter of Coldiretti, a farm­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion.

While this is a good open­ing to the har­vest sea­son, it is obvi­ous that this crazy cli­mate is des­tined to affect the qual­ity of at least a por­tion of the olives,” Muraglia said in ref­er­ence to all of Puglia, the largest olive oil-pro­duc­ing region in Italy.

What increas­ingly emerges is that, with the chang­ing cli­mate, olive trees are more in need of sup­port­ing irri­ga­tion,” he con­cluded. As the weather here increas­ingly resem­bles con­di­tions seen in North Africa, we have to sup­port our olive orchards with water, which is des­tined to become a dis­crim­i­nat­ing fac­tor in olive qual­ity.”


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