Producer Profiles

Frescobaldi: Quality Evolves Along the History of a Tuscan Family

The Frescobaldi company has seven hundred years of history but its vision of quality is fresh as ever.

Frescobaldi
Nov. 7, 2019
By Ylenia Granitto
Frescobaldi

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“The Frescobaldi com­pany has seven hun­dred years of his­tory,” the youngest member of the thir­ti­eth gen­er­a­tion of Tuscan pro­duc­ers, Matteo Frescobaldi said, as we reached an idyl­lic van­tage point over gently slop­ing hills blan­keted with vines and olive trees. “This is the oldest family-owned farm, and our story began here in 1300, closely inter­twined with that of the ter­ri­tory.”

At Tenuta Castiglioni, 30 hectares of (74 acres) of olive groves, mainly com­posed of Frantoio plants, are inter­spersed with arable crops like wheat and corn, and vines for the pro­duc­tion of Chianti.

“In the 1990s we planted some exper­i­men­tal vari­eties and, over the last decade, we added a plot devoted to research and devel­op­ment,” said the man­ager in charge of the fam­i­ly’s olive oil busi­ness since 2017.
See more: The Best Olive Oils from Tuscany

This year, thanks to a favor­able expo­sure, the orchards located in the west­ern part of the prop­erty gave healthy fruits. However, the dif­fer­ent posi­tion­ing of their farm­lands with varied soils and micro-cli­mates, and alti­tudes rang­ing from 150 to 500 meters (493 to 1,640 feet) allows them to have a fairly con­stant pro­duc­tiv­ity every year. “According to the season, we make a selec­tion of the best fruits har­vested in our olive groves and use them in our Laudemio,” Frescobaldi explained.

As we walked through the flour­ish­ing plants rooted in soft, clayey soil, he pointed out that this year, despite a rainy May and a delay in flow­er­ing which led to small drops on the high­est groves, they obtained sub­stan­tial vol­umes over­all, and the start of the har­vest in mid-October found many lush trees and fruits in great shape.

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As we headed east, toward the Tenuta di Rèmole, the Tuscan farmer explained how these lands have evolved over the cen­turies and, during the 1950s and 60s, went through a process of mod­ern­iza­tion.

“Vittorio Frescobaldi and his two younger broth­ers, Leonardo and Ferdinando, which is my father, started a reor­ga­ni­za­tion that led to the cur­rent setup of the estates,” he explained. “If the 1970s were char­ac­ter­ized by a grow­ing inter­est in wine, and this led our com­pany to improve this sector, the mid-80s was the turn­ing point for the extra virgin olive oil.”

Therefore, along with the desire to enhance the qual­ity of pro­duc­tion, a new con­tin­u­ous cycle mill became oper­a­tional in 1984. Soon after, how­ever, the great freeze of 1985 heav­ily dam­aged many of their groves. At that point, many farm­ers, here in the inland areas of Tuscany, were faced with the choice between focus­ing only on wine or restart­ing the pro­duc­tion of olive oil, to com­pete again with the indus­trial lead­ers of the sector, Frescobaldi revealed.

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Matteo Frescobaldi

“We made a deci­sion and applied to the olive oil the same phi­los­o­phy that we had imple­mented in wine for decades — improv­ing the pro­duc­tion through the con­cept of ter­ri­tory,” he explained. “I think this was the dawn of the qual­i­ta­tive con­cept of the extra virgin olive oil, which would become a prod­uct iden­ti­fied by the origin and spe­cific pro­duc­tion meth­ods as it is today.”

Then, after the freeze, in some areas, the harmed olive trees were recov­ered or repro­duced through shoots, while in other plots, they planted new ones fol­low­ing more effi­cient pat­terns. The desire to make a qual­ity prod­uct bound with the ter­ri­tory was the decid­ing factor for the birth of Laudemio.

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Vittorio Frescobaldi was the project pro­moter and the founder of the group of twenty-one pro­duc­ers who cur­rently make up the Consortium Laudemio. “The name refers to our region and to pro­duc­tion guide­lines which meet the high­est stan­dards, includ­ing a tast­ing panel that guar­an­tees the high qual­ity of the prod­uct,” the brand man­ager pointed out. “Our first Laudemio was made in 1989.”

“We are farm­ers and every­thing we make comes from the lands of Tuscany, a mag­nif­i­cent, multi-faceted ter­ri­tory,” he con­tin­ued, high­light­ing that the many forms and nuances of the region are expressed in their motto, Cultivating the diver­sity of Tuscany.

“Each of our lands gives unique fruits which express rich bio­di­ver­sity,” he con­sid­ered. “Respecting and pro­tect­ing the ter­ri­tory is our main objec­tive, and it goes hand in hand with pro­duc­ing and pro­mot­ing high-qual­ity prod­ucts that rep­re­sent this price­less land.”

Their envi­ron­men­tally friendly approach to the olive groves is cou­pled with sus­tain­able man­age­ment of 2,000 hectares (4,942 acres) of wood­land and they obtain energy from bio­mass plants. “We pro­duce more energy than we con­sume, thanks to the green power obtained by wood and other byprod­ucts such as pomace,” Frescobaldi spec­i­fied, adding that all the facil­i­ties are equipped with solar panels.

We reach the com­pany mill located in the Tenuta di Nipozzano, which adjoins an 80-hectare (189-acre) olive grove. The fruits from all of the farm­lands are deliv­ered here within a few hours from har­vest and the extra virgin olive oil obtained is selected and double fil­tered before becom­ing Laudemio. “We desire that our extra virgin olive oil is spicy, bright, and fresh for its entire shelf-life,” he pointed out.

Last season, ideal weather con­di­tions led to a great prod­uct: herba­ceous aromas, arti­choke and rocket, and har­mony which is bright­ened up by a spicy hint that refresh­ingly per­sists. The 30th edi­tion of Frescobaldi Laudemio won a a Gold Award at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

“We were able to obtain that cov­eted bal­ance we always look for in our extra virgin olive oil thanks to the hard work of our tech­ni­cian and col­lab­o­ra­tors, which even in the most com­plex and dif­fi­cult moments cre­ated the best con­di­tions pos­si­ble for our olive trees,” Frescobaldi pointed out.

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“Last year, very low tem­per­a­tures between the end of February and the begin­ning of March were reg­is­tered while our olive trees were still in veg­e­ta­tive rest,” he added. “It snowed a lot, and we had a record bloom when the snow melted.”

“On the other hand, this year, good weather con­di­tions in the spring favored a good fruit set­ting, and branches, already in September, were heavy with healthy drupes,” Frescobaldi con­sid­ered, adding that, thanks to timely har­vest­ing, they avoided the prob­lem of the olive fruit fly. After har­vest­ing, they till the soil and, in order to supply it with useful ele­ments, sow legu­mi­nous plants, such as field bean, which grow along­side wild plants.

Glancing over the rows of olive trees, the eye embraces a mag­nif­i­cent view, a har­mo­nious blend of shapes and shades, where lim­ber­ing white roads and dark green rows of cypress serve as neat, gentle bor­ders between the streaked tones of the vine­yards and the sil­very hues of the groves, which are even more iri­des­cent in the light of sunset.

“We could not do all this with­out taking care of the beauty of our land,” Frescobaldi con­cluded. “I believe that good prod­ucts come from beau­ti­ful places, and beau­ti­ful places give good prod­ucts.”