` Making 'Magic' at Domaine de La Vallongue

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Making 'Magic' at Domaine de La Vallongue

Sep. 5, 2019
By Pablo Esparza

Recent News

Not far away from the tourist-packed streets of the vil­lages of Saint Rémy-de-Provence and Baux, the olive groves of the Domaine de La Val­longue seem to grow in a whole dif­fer­ent world.

The estate is placed at the bot­tom of a long and nar­row val­ley -– Val­longue means long val­ley” — at the heart of Les Alpilles, a small moun­tain range cov­ered with pines and ker­nel oaks.

Here, olive trees, grapevines and almond trees have had to adapt to strong winds, the mis­tral winds, and lime­stone soil.

See more: The Best Olive Oils from France

This Regional Nat­ural Park and the vil­lages it com­prises is one of the most vis­ited places in France.

This dale was part of the Via Augusta, the Roman road link­ing Spain with the cap­i­tal of the Empire that ran all the way along the Mediter­ranean coast,” Laeti­tia Barthélemy, olive oil miller and pro­duc­tion man­ager of the com­pany tells Olive Oil Times.

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As we stroll through the lines of olive trees, Barthélemy and Juli­ette Allain, com­mer­cial and mar­ket­ing direc­tor, recall how the owner of the 300 hectares estate, Chris­t­ian Latouch, fell in love with the magic” of this place back in 2008 and decided to start pro­duc­ing wines and olive oils here.

There were six hectares of olive groves then. Now we have 79, which means around 18,000 olive trees. In 2015, this adven­ture con­tin­ued in 2015 when we opened our own new olive oil mill,” Barthélemy says.

The secret to hav­ing a bet­ter qual­ity olive oil is the capa­bil­ity to take the olives to the mill as fast as pos­si­ble and, as they are our groves and it is our mill, it allows us to keep con­trol of the logis­tics, the vari­eties that we want and the degree of mat­u­ra­tion that we want,” she adds.

La Val­longue earned a Gold Award at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion.

From the estate’s offices and mill, a typ­i­cal Provençal farm sur­rounded by pines and cypresses, we drive to the dif­fer­ent plots of land belong­ing to La Val­longue, placed within the munic­i­pal­i­ties of Saint Rémy and Eygal­ières. The major­ity of them are newly planted olive groves.

Olives and olive trees at La Vallongue

Oth­ers sur­vived the great frost of 1956, which dec­i­mated many of the olive trees in the South of France and North of Spain. Those share a char­ac­ter­is­tic shape, with an old dead trunk in the mid­dle sur­rounded by four new branches giv­ing the tree a sec­ond life.

Most of the estate grows non-organic olive oil, although a small share of organic oil is also pro­duced.

Pro­duc­ing organic oil is com­plex today, but we are devel­op­ing it,” Barthélemy sug­gests.

When asked what makes French olive oil pro­duc­tion par­tic­u­lar, Barthélemy points to the Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin sys­tem (AOPs), which also exists in other Euro­pean coun­tries, but, she says, is deeply rooted in France.

AOPs are meant to link pro­duc­ers and their land, espe­cially a par­tic­u­lar kind of soil (ter­roir, in French), cli­mate, and above all the know-how. Also, AOPs serve con­sumers’ demands, who are increas­ingly inter­ested in locally pro­duced and fully trace­able foods,” she explains.

Domaine de la Vallongue

This sys­tem already proved to work very well in the wine sec­tor, so we started apply­ing it to other prod­ucts such as oils of cheese,” Allain adds.

La Val­longue belongs to the AOP of La Val­lée des Baux de Provence. Despite being one of the small­est of the eight olive oil AOPs in France, it com­prises six­teen vil­lages and pro­duces some 15 per­cent of the total French olive oil pro­duc­tion.

Pre­serv­ing and pro­mot­ing the pro­duc­tion of local cul­ti­vars is key to the AOPs sys­tem.

Here at La Val­longue we basi­cally grow five vari­eties which are typ­i­cal from the Val­lée des Baux. We have the Salo­nenque, which takes its name from the neigh­bor­ing city of Salon de Provence,” Barthélemy says.

We also have the Berruguete and the Verdale of the Bouches du Rhône, which is typ­i­cal from this depart­ment and has grassy and green apple aro­mas and the Grossane, which is endemic of the Val­lée des Baux. Accord­ing to the leg­end, the lords of the Baux brought that vari­ety from the Cru­sades. And finally, we have the Picholine, which is small and pointy.”

These dif­fer­ent cul­ti­vars and hav­ing our own mil allows us to offer a big diver­sity of oils with dif­fer­ent fla­vors,” the miller adds.


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