Tuscan Producers Triumph at NYIOOC, Overcoming Late Frosts and Summer Heat

Painstaking work in the grove, without forgetting the importance of sustainable farming, propelled Tuscan farmers to a leading role at the World Competition.
Harvest at Antico Poggiolo
By Ylenia Granitto
Jun. 9, 2022 10:56 UTC

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

Tuscan pro­duc­ers earned a record num­ber of awards at the tenth NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, once again con­firm­ing the cen­tral Italian region on the world stage.

This suc­cess comes at the end of a sea­son described by some as one of the most chal­leng­ing in recent times. Several groves were affected by extreme weather, espe­cially dur­ing the sum­mer, which posed a severe threat to both yields and qual­ity.

However, painstak­ing work in the field, where noth­ing was left to chance, cou­pled with greater invest­ment and a cer­tain amount of stub­born­ness – a tal­ent that all the farm­ers should be equipped with, in any case – made it pos­si­ble for Tuscan pro­duc­ers to reach out­stand­ing lev­els of qual­ity.

See Also:The Best Olive Oils From Italy

All this effort trans­lates into ele­gant, mouth-fill­ing blends rich in scents like arti­choke, wild greens, almonds, aro­matic herbs and spices that come together, gen­er­at­ing strik­ing sen­so­r­ial emo­tions.

Nestled on the grav­elly, tuffa­ceous hills of Cetona, in the province of Siena, Podere Ricavo earned a Gold Award for its DOP Terre di Siena Biologico brand, an organic medium blend.


Olive harvest at Podere Ricavo

For us, this award is worth dou­ble,” Federico Massoli told Olive Oil Times. First, the NYIOOC is a pres­ti­gious com­pe­ti­tion and obtain­ing recog­ni­tion from it means a lot to us. Also, since we have many cus­tomers in the United States, this is a way to show them the rel­e­vance of our prod­uct.”

Last year was com­plex,” he added. A late frost com­pro­mised the flow­er­ing and halved the pro­duc­tion, yet this did not pre­vent us from obtain­ing the high qual­ity we always aspire to.”

His 3,000 olive trees are spread over a 10-hectare estate that, being on the regional bor­der, encroaches on the neigh­bor­ing Città della Pieve in Umbria.

Our blend con­sists of 40 per­cent Moraiolo, a lit­tle less than 20 per­cent Leccino, with the remain­ing per­cent­age shared between Frantoio and Correggiolo,” Massoli said.

Besides these, his groves include sev­eral Minuta di Chiusa trees, which were recently redis­cov­ered.

We pro­duce a mono­va­ri­etal and call it the olive oil of Etruscans,” he said. Indeed, cen­turies-old Minuta trees can be found only in our local area around Chiusi, which was once the cap­i­tal of this pop­u­la­tion.”

The pro­tec­tion of bio­di­ver­sity, closely linked to sus­tain­able farm man­age­ment, is part of our life phi­los­o­phy that urges us to live in a clean and healthy envi­ron­ment,” Massoli added.

In Vitiano, a ham­let of Arezzo, Giancarlo Giannini mas­ter­fully com­bined the fruits of Frantoio, Leccino and Moraiolo trees. The result is Vipiano, whose har­monic com­plex­ity impressed the NYIOOC judges and earned him a Gold Award – the lat­est in a long series of acco­lades.


Vipiano’s olive groves

I am pleased, espe­cially since receiv­ing sev­eral awards in a row allowed us to com­mu­ni­cate to our cus­tomers our con­stant ded­i­ca­tion to qual­ity over the years,” he told Olive Oil Times.

My groves still main­tain a tra­di­tional plant­ing lay­out,” Giannini added. They are mostly com­posed of very old olive trees, while the newest part was planted after 1985.”


He said that since the big chill of that year, the last har­vest was prob­a­bly the most dif­fi­cult in the recent decades.

A late frost in the first week of April destroyed the first buds and delayed flow­er­ing,” Giannini said. Then we had a good fruit set, but a heat wave burned the small fruits.”

Only in the newly irri­gated area were we able to save part of the har­vest,” he added. This meant increased work and expenses, but the final qual­ity we reached paid us back for all the effort.”

This year, a very good flow­er­ing bodes well for the next har­vest. We have to see what hap­pens in the next few weeks,” said Giannini, who is also the pro­ducer behind Bramasole, the brand cre­ated by Frances Mayes, author of the New York Times best­seller Under the Tuscan Sun.

The fruits of her plants, located between Vitiano and Cortona, are crushed at Giannini’s mill.

I believe the machin­ery is impor­tant, but the oper­a­tor makes the dif­fer­ence,” he said. The oil mill is like a race car: vic­tory depends on the dri­ver.”

Meanwhile, the rolling hills around Florence are where Frescobaldi pro­duces Gold Award-win­ning Laudemio, a blend where Frantoio is pre­dom­i­nant.


Matteo Frescobaldi

Receiving this recog­ni­tion grat­i­fies and rewards our work in the field and at the mill,” Matteo Frescobaldi told Olive Oil Times. It is a great sat­is­fac­tion every year, but this prize acquires even more value after a chal­leng­ing har­vest like the last one.”

Let’s say right away that the result in terms of qual­ity was extra­or­di­nary,” he added. And still, this came after a sea­son char­ac­ter­ized by a series of weather events that have put us to the test.”

Their 300-hectare olive grove is located between 200 to 500 meters of ele­va­tion. The buds of the low­est plants had already begun to develop when the early April frost hit them. Then, the high tem­per­a­tures of June made the fruit set very dif­fi­cult.

The activ­ity in the groves has been more intense than usual,” Frescobaldi said. All the prac­tices nor­mally car­ried out, such as green manure and prun­ing, last year turned out to be even more rel­e­vant, and not a sin­gle detail has been over­looked.”

Even the har­vest, which started in mid-October, required spe­cial care to col­lect the low amount of fruits on each plant,” he added. However, I have to say that it was great train­ing for each of us.”

Now, the first small olives peep out after full bloom, and the expec­ta­tions are high. The next weeks are cru­cial,” Frescobaldi said. In any case, we are pre­pared to work hard to achieve the high­est qual­ity.”

Antico Poggiolo is an organic olive grove of 2,000 trees that sits on a hill­top over­look­ing Pistoia, boast­ing beau­ti­ful views that extend toward Florence.


Silvia Gori

We par­tic­i­pated for the first time, and we obtained such an impor­tant recog­ni­tion,” Silvia Gori said, com­ment­ing on the Gold Award earned for her blend of Frantoio, Moraiolo and Leccino. I think this com­pe­ti­tion is a great show­case for our extra vir­gin olive oil.”

Following the tra­di­tion of her fam­ily, which has been pro­duc­ing olive oil for gen­er­a­tions, in 2016, she cre­ated the Antico Poggiolo with the aim of mak­ing a high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil.

This area has ideal pedo­cli­matic char­ac­ter­is­tics,” Gori said. I think this helped us obtain an excel­lent prod­uct last year despite the sharp decline in pro­duc­tion.”

Indeed, com­pared to the pre­vi­ous har­vest, it was more than halved,” she added. In par­tic­u­lar, the Leccino vari­ety suf­fered the extreme weather events that occurred in the warmer months. On the other hand, the high tem­per­a­tures pre­vented the onset of the olive fruit fly.”

The farm­house of Antico Poggiolo is about to open, and there is a plan to build a state-of-the-art mill.

We are wait­ing for all the nec­es­sary per­mits to estab­lish our facil­ity,” Gori said. Our struc­ture is har­mo­niously placed in the con­text. As we pay par­tic­u­lar atten­tion to the care of the land­scape, we kept the orig­i­nal plant­ing pat­tern of the groves.”

Their project is to expand pro­duc­tion by adding more olive trees on some vacant plots.

Wild ani­mals are wide­spread in the area,” Gori said. We pro­tect them and their envi­ron­ment using sus­tain­able farm­ing meth­ods. We just need to cre­ate an enclo­sure to pre­vent them from nib­bling the branch of the young plants. We will plant the new olive trees as soon as the work is done.”


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