`Fifty Years After Fortuné Arizzi's Vision, An Award-Wining Olive Oil

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Fifty Years After Fortuné Arizzi's Vision, An Award-Wining Olive Oil

Jan. 20, 2014
Alice Alech

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Jean-Charles Arizzi and his mother Jeanne Arizzi pro­duce award-win­ning Moulin Arizzi extra vir­gin olive oils.

Last April at the New York Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion the big win­ners were Italy and Spain, with 87 and 51 awards, respec­tively. France, with far fewer entries, won just five. The Arizzi fam­ily in the lit­tle vil­lage of Les Mées in Provence earned a highly-cov­eted gold medal and was thus named one of the world’s best extra vir­gin olive oils.” Jean-Charles Arizzi and his mother Jeanne from Arizzi Mill (Moulin Arizzi) were delighted and hon­ored with the results.

Our oil com­peted among the best extra vir­gin olive oils from all over the world, scru­ti­nized and judged by an inter­na­tional panel of experts,” Mr. Arizzi said. Ours was the first French olive oil to receive a gold medal in the robust cat­e­gory.”

Les Mées is sit­u­ated in the Haute Provence known prin­ci­pally for Aglan­dau, Picholine and Bouteil­lan vari­eties of olives. The Arizzi Mill today boasts 28 hectares and 8,000 olive trees.

But when For­tuné, Jean-Charles’s father, bought the land back in 1964, it was more or less in ruins with only two hectares of olive trees. No one was invest­ing in olives because of the dis­as­trous frosts which hit this region of Provence four years before, and it made lit­tle sense to invest in olives. Wait­ing five to seven years for the olives to pro­duce oil did not seem to be a good idea at the time.

For­tuné Arizzi, how­ever, rec­og­nized the excep­tional ter­roir of the region and con­vinced his wife to invest in an olive orchard.

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He had a plan to bring over an olive cul­ti­var from his home­land in Italy and to cul­ti­vate on his new orchard, together with the local vari­eties Aglan­dau and Picholine.

He planted the trees, and processed and blended the oils.

My father’s idea to blend the local vari­eties with Fran­toio from Tus­cany was a bril­liant one. Fran­toio gives a unique intense green color to our extra vir­gin,” said Mr. Arizzi.

Today he runs the fam­ily busi­ness pro­duc­ing its sig­na­ture olive oil renowned for its spe­cific tast­ing notes of arti­choke, almonds and fresh cut grass.

Along with its unique blend Mr. Arizzi cred­its the good qual­ity of the soil, an alti­tude of 450 metres and the excep­tional micro cli­mate of les Mées. At their estate, the Arizzi’s have bright sun and rocky soil, and they believe that har­vest­ing by hand assures opti­mum qual­ity.

He added: what makes us dif­fer­ent is our tech­nique, the sub­tle blend of the two local vari­eties, Aglan­dau and Picholine, as well as a third vari­ety of Ital­ian ori­gin. We are the only grow­ers in the region cul­ti­vat­ing this olive vari­ety. We nur­ture our soil, mak­ing sure the trees are watered reg­u­larly, and we har­vest only when the olives are very black. They must be ripe.”

For­tuné Arizzi started off using the tra­di­tional method of extract­ing oil. In 1988, he con­verted to the more mod­ern and effi­cient cen­trifu­gal process.

Arizzi fin­ished har­vest­ing this year’s crop in early Decem­ber. Due of the drop in tem­per­a­tures between day and night which hit most of Provence this year dur­ing the flow­er­ing period, yields will be less than in pre­vi­ous years.

Quan­ti­ties might be down, but the qual­ity at Moulin Arizzi will always be excep­tional,” he enthused.

High qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil starts in the orchard, and pre­serv­ing the envi­ron­ment today is a col­lec­tive respon­si­bil­ity. The Arizzi’s rec­og­nize the impor­tance of a holis­tic approach to olive farm­ing.

We have been respect­ing sus­tain­able farm­ing for 20 years now,” Mr. Arrizi said.

The Arizzi mill also makes an extra vir­gin olive oil with black truf­fle aroma now sell­ing in sev­eral bou­tiques in France, includ­ing the pres­ti­gious Mai­son de la Truf­fle in Paris.

It has been a good year for the fam­ily-owned busi­ness. They not only tri­umphed at the world’s most impor­tant olive oil com­pe­ti­tion, gain­ing recog­ni­tion for their supe­rior blend, but Fair­way Mar­ket, the renowned Amer­i­can gourmet retailer has sold out their first order from the Arizzis. More is on the way.

And at home, some 10,000 vis­i­tors wan­dered through the estate this year. Keen to share her pas­sion for olive oil, Mrs. Arizzi has super­vised a video for guests of the Moulin — a short film which informs and edu­cates olive oil novices on olive oil cul­ture.

2014 will be an impor­tant year for the fam­ily. Moulin Arizzi will be cel­e­brat­ing their fifti­eth anniver­sary — fifty years since the inspired For­tuné made the deci­sion to turn to olive farm­ing. At Arizzi Mill they will main­tain their tra­di­tion, con­tin­u­ing to inspire by shar­ing their olive oil cul­ture, know-how and love for healthy extra vir­gin olive oil.

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