Tuscan Producers Manage Difficult Harvest to Achieve Outstanding Results

Producers from the famed central Italian region said sustainability is the key to success when producing extra virgin olive oil, even during a drought.
Tom Luger
By Ylenia Granitto
May. 1, 2023 14:16 UTC

Despite the chal­leng­ing har­vest con­di­tions, Tuscan pro­duc­ers were able to attain remark­able out­comes.

Italy was again the most awarded coun­try at the 2023 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

Producers from the Boot earned 173 awards from 224 entries, the third-high­est suc­cess rate of any coun­try with more than ten entries at the NYIOOC and con­sis­tent with pre­vi­ous per­for­mances by Italian pro­duc­ers.

The suc­cess of our oils at the NYIOOC, for which I con­grat­u­late the win­ners, is another great oppor­tu­nity to stim­u­late the com­mit­ment of the com­pa­nies to con­stantly improv­ing the qual­ity of their prod­ucts.- Stefania Saccardi, Tuscany’s vice pres­i­dent and coun­cilor for agri-food

Tuscan farm­ers sig­nif­i­cantly con­tributed to this suc­cess – they sub­mit­ted a record num­ber of entries and were one of the most rep­re­sented regional groups in the Official Guide to the World’s Best Olive Oils.

See Also:The best extra vir­gin olive oils from Italy

Award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oils made in Tuscany are mainly obtained from autochtho­nous vari­eties, cul­ti­vated with a par­tic­u­lar focus on safe­guard­ing the land, from the ter­raced hill­sides of the Tyrrhenian coast to the rolling slopes that sur­round inland vil­lages.

Like many other Italian and European grow­ers, Tuscans faced an intense drought over the past year. Still, they over­came the threat of water stress and achieved a good yield with out­stand­ing lev­els of qual­ity.

The suc­cess of our oils at the NYIOOC, for which I con­grat­u­late the win­ners, is another great oppor­tu­nity to stim­u­late the com­mit­ment of the com­pa­nies to con­stantly improv­ing the qual­ity of their prod­ucts,” Tuscany’s vice pres­i­dent and coun­cilor for agri-food, Stefania Saccardi told Olive Oil Times.

The con­sumer who buys cer­ti­fied Tuscan oil has the cer­tainty of buy­ing an extra­or­di­nary prod­uct that recounts a fan­tas­tic ter­ri­tory,” she said, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of pre­serv­ing the region’s olive land­scape and bio­di­ver­sity.

Tuscany pro­motes sus­tain­able farm­ing mod­els with low envi­ron­men­tal impact, in line with the objec­tives of the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork strat­egy and the Common Agricultural Policy,” she said.

Among the win­ners is Dimora Girlandaio, which earned a Gold Award in its NYIOOC debut with a blend of Moraiolo, Frantoio and Leccino olives pro­duced in Colle Ramole, out­side of Florence.


(Photo: Dimora Girlandaio)

The olive oil pro­duc­tion has become, over time, a com­ple­men­tary activ­ity to our high-end agri­tourism,” owner Marco Cecchi said. Our 2,500 olive trees were replanted after the 1985 frost by my grand­fa­ther, who made such a blend first, then my father did it.”

Today, we want the qual­ity of our oil to be at the same level as our top-class hos­pi­tal­ity, which is char­ac­ter­ized by a search for authen­tic­ity through the con­nec­tion with the ter­ri­tory that we intend to safe­guard,” he added.

The estate was orig­i­nally the coun­try res­i­dence of the famous Renaissance painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, whose art­work is wide­spread in Florence and through­out Tuscany. In their time, they already pro­duced olive oil from these groves,” Cecchi said.

The com­pany is now con­vert­ing to organic prac­tices but has long been pro­mot­ing sus­tain­able farm­ing man­age­ment; a pho­to­voltaic sys­tem sup­plies its energy, and the pro­duc­ers have a lake for water recov­ery.

This care for sus­tain­abil­ity is also reflected in the choice of our sup­pli­ers, who are all local,” Cecchi said. Already while ren­o­vat­ing the struc­ture and the estate, we chose to com­mu­ni­cate our con­nec­tion with this land and the com­mit­ment to pre­serve it by restor­ing nearby areas, includ­ing ancient dry stone walls and rural roads.”

The blend pro­duced at Podere Il Montaleo also impressed the NYIOOC judges, win­ning a Gold Award for its intense, har­monic com­bi­na­tion of Moraiolo, Frantoio, Maurino, Leccino and Pendolino olives.


(Photo: Podere Il Montaleo)

My fam­ily has owned this prop­erty since the mid-1800s, and in 2009, I cre­ated the com­pany focus­ing on high qual­ity,” said Cesare Diddi Mussi, who man­ages about 6,000 trees on the hills between Casale Marittimo and Bibbona, in the province of Pisa.

We have a com­pany mill com­plete with a bot­tling line, all equipped with the lat­est gen­er­a­tion machin­ery,” he added. We pay great atten­tion to har­vest­ing the fruits at the right time and crush­ing them in a few hours.”


Varieties from other regions, such as the Tonda Iblea, were added to the orig­i­nal grove, which already hosted the afore­men­tioned native Tuscan vari­eties and Lazzero from Val di Cecina.

Despite the drought, the har­vest was sat­is­fac­tory and excel­lent in qual­ity. Using an irri­ga­tion sys­tem helped the olive grove to over­come the dry­ness.

Our com­pany is con­stantly evolv­ing and exper­i­ment­ing,” Diddi Mussi said. The mill is con­tin­u­ously updated to improve the qual­ity of our prod­ucts.”

Close to it, immersed in the olive grove, we will soon build a struc­ture with a kitchen where we will pair our oils and other local agri-food prod­ucts,” he added. We do a lot of research. The awards obtained over the years at the NYIOOC show us that we are going in the right direc­tion.”

Another major acco­lade went to Le Balze di Fontisterni for an intense blend of Moraiolo, Frantoio and Leccino olives with notes of almond pro­duced by Tom Luger in the vil­lage of Pelago, not far from Florence.


Tom Luger

Born in Munich, Germany, Luger moved to Italy in 1996. My father’s grand­fa­ther was Italian from South Tyrol, and I had a strong con­nec­tion with this coun­try,” he said. At the begin­ning of 2020, I took over this prop­erty to make an agri­tourism oper­a­tion and pro­duce oil, which for me has always been an extra­or­di­nary prod­uct.”

Shortly after tak­ing over the prop­erty, the Covid-19 pan­demic ensued and stopped agri­tourism activ­i­ties. As a result, he under­took his first har­vest.

After a test pro­duc­tion, I par­tic­i­pated in the last year’s NYIOOC, obtain­ing a Silver Award. The Gold Award that I earned at the 2023 NYIOOC guar­an­tees that the qual­ity has increased, and I will con­tinue to improve it,” he said.

His 250 trees are located partly on ter­races and partly on rolling hills. The fruits are har­vested by hand and quickly deliv­ered to a local state-of-the-art mill. Throughout the process, from the man­age­ment of the grove to the use of resources, Luger adopts a sus­tain­able approach.

Taking care of the envi­ron­ment where my olive trees grow is fun­da­men­tal,” he said. Aiming for such high stan­dards in the con­text of cli­mate change required much work, but this recog­ni­tion repays all my effort.”

The feed­back from pro­fes­sional tasters who assess hun­dreds of oils from all over the world is very impor­tant, as it inte­grates the sat­is­fac­tion of our con­sumers,” Luger added.

At its first par­tic­i­pa­tion in the NYIOOC, Frantoio di San Gimignano earned a Gold Award with its PGI Toscano.


(Photo: Frantoio di San Gimignano)

Our fam­ily com­pany was founded in 1950 with the estab­lish­ment of our his­toric olive mill in Monte San Savino, in the province of Arezzo,” said Alberto Morettini. In 2019, we acquired this sec­ond mill, which was estab­lished long ago as well, which we restored and relaunched.”

Close to the facil­ity, amid the rolling hills of San Gimignano, between Siena and Florence, the Morettini com­pany man­ages olive groves com­posed of Frantoio, Moraiolo, Leccino, Maurino and Leccio del Corno trees – the lat­ter of which is used to pro­duce the award-win­ning mono­va­ri­etal extra vir­gin olive oil.

We par­tic­i­pated in the NYIOOC to present the high-qual­ity prod­ucts made in our mill on the global stage, to launch the Frantoio di San Gimignano brand,” he said, spec­i­fy­ing that they press their fruits and those deliv­ered by the local farm­ers.

The lat­est-gen­er­a­tion tech­nol­ogy of the mill includes ver­ti­cal vac­uum malax­ers, which shorten the knead­ing stage, and a two-phase low-tem­per­a­ture decanter.

It does not require addi­tional water, allow­ing us to save this pre­cious resource,” Morettini said. To reduce waste, we reuse all the by-prod­ucts, from the olive pits, that become bio­mass for the pro­duc­tion of energy, to the olive leaves, that turn into an ingre­di­ent to pro­duce a liqueur by infu­sion.”

This award makes us very happy since it con­firms the valid­ity of the work we car­ried out in this new struc­ture,” he added. Here, we brought all our knowl­edge also to the ser­vice of the farm­ers of the area who aim at pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oils. Our suc­cess indi­cates that our qual­ity-ori­ented work can be very impor­tant also for the ter­ri­tory.”

Two other Gold Awards went to Badia a Coltibuono, whose olive groves are located between Gaiole in Chianti, in the province of Siena, and Cavriglia, in the province of Arezzo.


(Photo: Badia a Coltibuono)

We are so glad to receive these pres­ti­gious recog­ni­tions for Albereto, which comes from our olive groves, and Badia a Coltibuono, for which we selected pre­mium extra vir­gin oils from other Italian regions,” said Roberto Stucchi Prinetti. We are first of all pro­duc­ers and now also selec­tors.”

We are a fam­ily com­pany that also offers hos­pi­tal­ity and pro­duces wine,” he added. We started bot­tling olive oil in 1962 and have been grow­ers for many gen­er­a­tions – since 1846.” This is the year when they set­tled in the estate, which has at its heart a for­mer monastery – in Italian badia’ – that now hosts part of the agri­tourism and the cel­lars.

His blend com­bines Leccio del Corno, Frantoio, Pendolino and a small per­cent­age of Maurino olives. The grove also includes rows of Leccino Minerva.

Since the frost of 1985 destroyed the trees pre­vi­ously present in the estate down to the roots, the olive groves were replanted after­ward,” Stucchi Prinetti said.

Perched on high hills about 550 meters above sea level, the olive trees face north, enjoy­ing a cool, dry envi­ron­ment.

This soil and cli­mate fea­tures usu­ally help avoid pests and keep the plants thriv­ing,” Stucchi Prinetti said. We do not even need an irri­ga­tion sys­tem.”

Yet, last year, the drought was so intense that it caused a fruit drop and a slight decline in pro­duc­tion. However, the rains finally arrived just before the har­vest and helped them to col­lect healthy olives, from which they obtained an excel­lent prod­uct.

Our com­pany has been cer­ti­fied organic since 1994,” Stucchi Prinetti said. This shows the atten­tion we have always paid to sus­tain­abil­ity. We use cover crop­ping, com­post­ing and all the most sus­tain­able tech­niques avail­able to us to safe­guard the envi­ron­ment and, there­fore, to pre­serve the beauty of our land.”


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