Triumph of Northern Italian Producers Rooted in Profound Bond with the Land

Farrmers in five northern Italian regions overcame drought to achieve another year of high-quality extra virgin olive oil production.

Francesca Casadei and her family at Tenuta San Giuseppe
By Ylenia Granitto
May. 18, 2023 14:24 UTC
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Francesca Casadei and her family at Tenuta San Giuseppe

After the exhaus­tive assess­ments by the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition analy­sis team, pro­duc­ers from north­ern Italy once again demon­strated they are among the world’s best.

We are delighted with this result, espe­cially since it arrived at the end of a chal­leng­ing har­vest.- Nicola Ferrarese, owner, Tèra de Prie

The award-win­ning farm­ers – hail­ing from Emilia-Romagna, Liguria, Lombardy, Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto – reflected on a har­vest char­ac­ter­ized by a slight pro­duc­tion increase com­pared to the pre­vi­ous one; an on-year’ in the olive trees’ nat­ural alter­nate bear­ing cycle helped them to counter the effects of the intense drought that have gripped Europe and Italy, par­tic­u­larly in the north of the coun­try.

Thanks to their com­mit­ment to qual­ity, Italy was the most awarded coun­try at the NYIOOC and had one of the high­est suc­cess rates, obtain­ing 174 awards from 224 entries.

See Also:The Best EVOOs From Italy

Among these well-deserved acco­lades is the Gold Award earned by Cordioli Erminio for his blend Campo delle Marogne blend pro­duced in Veneto.

This is the third recog­ni­tion we have received from this pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion, and it fills us with joy,” said Ceil Friedman, who man­ages an orchard with 750 olive trees among the rolling hills above Verona with her hus­band.

In our olive grove, there are autochtho­nous Grignano and Favarol vari­eties, which, along with some Frantoio, con­sti­tute the orig­i­nal nucleus of the orchard that is 150 years old,” she said. Twenty-five years ago, other trees were planted; more recently, we added 180 Itrana trees.”

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(Photo: Cordioli Erminio)

Expectations have been placed on the flow­er­ing phase after the con­clu­sion of the prun­ing oper­a­tions at the end of March.

The most del­i­cate moment of the veg­e­ta­tive cycle is com­ing,” Friedman said. Now, we are grate­ful because we had some light rains that started before Easter, which ben­e­fit the plants and are ideal to be absorbed by our clayey soil.”

Last year, the intense heat and drought put pro­duc­tion at risk, but Cordioli Erminio man­aged to achieve a high level of qual­ity.

Other farm­ers in the area also made excel­lent oils,” Friedman said. If, on the one hand, we had lower vol­umes, the qual­ity obtained has paid off. Every har­vest has its chal­lenges.”

Three years ago, for exam­ple, in the sum­mer, we had to cope with var­i­ous weather adver­si­ties, from hail to whirl­winds,” she added. Yet, our focus is qual­ity, and the sat­is­fac­tion we obtain with our pre­mium prod­ucts encour­ages us to con­tinue work­ing in the grove with com­mit­ment and care.”

Two farm­ers in Emilia-Romagna earned the high­est acco­lade for extra vir­gin olive oils obtained from native regional vari­eties.

Palazzo di Varignana earned two Gold Awards for a mono­va­ri­etal and a blend pro­duced on the hills of Castel San Pietro in the province of Bologna, Emilia.

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(Photo: Palazzo di Varignana)

We are pleased to receive these two recog­ni­tions,” pro­duc­tion man­ager Chiara Del Vecchio said. Vargnano is a monocul­ti­var of Nostrana di Brisighella, an autochtho­nous vari­ety of the area that rep­re­sents us so well.”

It expresses ele­gance with a hint of tomato leaves and a bal­ance between bit­ter­ness and spici­ness,” she added. Blend Blu is a fine fusion of Correggiolo, Leccio del Corno and Pendolino, which are har­vested and crushed sep­a­rately, then com­bined in the mill by our ole­ol­o­gist. This is the cre­ation process of all our blends.”

Other vari­eties of cen­tral Italy, includ­ing Frantoio, Leccino, Maurino Vittoria, Leccio del Corno and Verzola, com­plete the com­po­si­tion of the 200-hectare orchard, home to 150,000 trees.

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An irri­ga­tion sys­tem, along with some reser­voirs cre­ated in the lower areas of the prop­erty, ensures the trees receive enough water. This allows us to recover the rain­wa­ter and reuse it to con­serve the resources,” Del Vecchio said.

She empha­sized that with the estab­lish­ment of the resort in 2015, the com­pany brought olive grow­ing back to the hills of Varignana.

The olive tree cul­ti­va­tion in this area was inter­rupted more than two cen­turies ago,” she said. We car­ried out recov­ery work in the area.”

After acquir­ing some aban­doned orchards, we re-estab­lished the olive groves remod­el­ing the hill, set­ting up a mod­ern plant­ing pat­tern with the option of car­ry­ing out a mechan­i­cal har­vest,” Del Vecchio added.

The com­pany will soon inau­gu­rate a mill. The works to build the struc­ture should fin­ish in July,” Del Vecchio said. State-of-the-art machin­ery will be assem­bled in August and will be ready in time for the next har­vest.”

In neigh­bor­ing Romagna, Tenuta San Giuseppe pro­duced the Gold-Award-win­ning Il Centenario brand from more than 400 cen­te­nary Correggiolo trees.

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(Photo: Tenuta San Giuseppe)

It is a great feel­ing to receive this recog­ni­tion, which rewards our com­mit­ment to qual­ity,” said Francesca Casadei. We cre­ated the brand in 2021 when we founded the com­pany, but my hus­band and I are fourth-gen­er­a­tion olive grow­ers since these orchards belonged to our great-grand­par­ents and grand­par­ents.”

Their grove of 2,000 olive trees, includ­ing sev­eral rows of Leccino, is nes­tled on the hills of Saludecio in the province of Rimini.

The nearby Adriatic Sea mit­i­gates the cli­mate, cre­at­ing a good envi­ron­ment for olive cul­ti­va­tion despite the harsh win­ters,” Casadei said. We have big frost approx­i­mately every 20 years, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for the trees to reach great dimen­sions due to the cold effects.”

Still, they have tall trunks because for­merly, accord­ing to the wide­spread prac­tice of poly­cul­ture, wheat was grown under them,” she added. Sometimes, they are dif­fi­cult to man­age, but we care a lot about them, which are the land­mark of our beau­ti­ful land­scape.”

The estate also includes a restau­rant and hotel that fol­lows sus­tain­able and eth­i­cal prin­ci­ples, pay­ing par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to the choice of sup­pli­ers and the envi­ron­men­tally friendly man­age­ment of the com­pany.

Our goal is a respect­ful pro­duc­tion,” Casadei said. We are con­vert­ing to organic and have plans to expand the olive grove, with our ancient olive trees always at the heart of it all. They are a true her­itage to be pre­served and an essen­tial part of our beau­ti­ful ter­ri­tory that we aim to safe­guard.”

The 2023 NYIOOC saw the return of Liguria to the world stage with Tèra de Prie and its Taggiasca mono­va­ri­etal, which earned a Silver Award.

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Tèra de Prie’s terraced olive groves

We are delighted with this result, espe­cially since it arrived at the end of a chal­leng­ing har­vest,” said Nicola Ferrarese, whose fam­ily com­pany man­ages 4,000 trees scat­tered over 16 hectares of ter­raced land in the Upper Impero Valley.

Due to the land­scape, the local grow­ers shaped the steep slopes into cul­ti­vated ter­races sup­ported by dry-stone walls over the cen­turies. These have become invalu­able land­marks inter­twined with the Ferrarese family’s search for qual­ity.

We carry out con­stant main­te­nance to pre­serve the area,” Ferrarese said. Today, for exam­ple, we just fin­ished restruc­tur­ing a dry stone wall.”

Overall, every year we recover about 250 square meters of these struc­tures, which pro­vide sev­eral ben­e­fits: they slow down soil ero­sion; ensure that the water flows, avoid­ing stag­na­tion; and allow us to work on areas with extreme slope.”

Given the pecu­liar set­ting, opti­miz­ing the space on the ter­races becomes a key ele­ment. With this pur­pose, a gen­eral reform prun­ing is being car­ried out.

We must con­sider that, due to the type of ter­rain, we already have a lower num­ber of trees,” Ferrarese said, explain­ing that his trees were planted in the 1400s at a dis­tance of six meters from each other.

Over time, the ini­tial pat­tern got lost, espe­cially due to the effects of fre­quent frosts,” he added. Indeed, when a tree was cut down due to frost dam­age, suck­ers were reborn from the roots, devel­op­ing into as many as four or five trunks for each crown, dis­pers­ing energy and reduc­ing light. This can be avoided by cut­ting some trunks and recre­at­ing the orig­i­nal set­ting.”

Managing the agri­cul­tural lands in cer­tain areas of the Mediterranean like ours requires extra work and expense,” Ferrarese con­cluded. However, our efforts are largely rewarded by the great results we achieve.”


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