`Casa de Hualdo Wins Top Prize at Extrascape - Olive Oil Times

Casa de Hualdo Wins Top Prize at Extrascape

By Curtis Cord
May. 3, 2012 13:44 UTC

In a large and sunny room over­look­ing the Adriatic Sea, teams of land­scape, archi­tec­tural and envi­ron­men­tal experts from three Italian uni­ver­si­ties poured over maps, spread­sheets and aer­ial images of olive farms.

Meanwhile, in another room, the olive oils pro­duced by those farms were ana­lyzed by a panel of expert tasters.

For three days this week San Martino was the set­ting for the first Extrascape com­pe­ti­tion — the inno­v­a­tive cre­ation of Michele Vitale and Francesco Travaglini, the pres­i­dent of MolisExtra, an asso­ci­a­tion of pro­duc­ers in this lit­tle-known region four hours by car from Rome.


MolisExtra President Franceso Travaglini

Molise is among Italy’s most rural areas, unspoiled by indus­trial activ­ity and far from the tram­pled paths of tourists along the Mediterranean coast. Its rolling hills are etched by ancient tracks where for thou­sands of years sheep were herded from Puglia north and west to Abruzzi.

Molisans are proud of their rural tra­di­tions, and never more than this week dur­ing La Carrese” — a race dat­ing back to 842 through the wind­ing vil­lage streets by teams of oxen and dri­vers on col­or­ful car­riages.

At the fin­ish line fans wear­ing the red col­ors of the win­ning Giovanotti” team erupted with screams of tri­umph, while many of the vil­lagers in blue and green col­ors openly sobbed and con­soled one another.

The oxen seemed near death as they crossed the line gasp­ing, their mouths opened wider than seemed pos­si­ble. Yet ten min­utes later they appeared no worse for the wear and a local man said the oxen work like hell for one day a year and spend the other 364 in a five-star hotel.”


La Carrese

Soon the reds, greens and blues came together like pix­els on the piazza with song and cel­e­bra­tions that lasted into the night and early morn­ing.

The tiny annual olive oil pro­duc­tion in Molise — about 450,000 liters — is just 1 per­cent of Italy’s total and less than some giant mills can pump out in a sin­gle day, but pro­duc­ers in the Molise D.O.P. are striv­ing to offer the high­est qual­ity, com­plete trace­abil­ity and the unique sen­sory pro­file that can only be found in oils from these ancient, fra­grant val­leys.

The land­scape experts, who were sup­ported by an army of lap­top-wield­ing doc­tor­ate stu­dents, rated farms from five coun­tries on a com­plex set of cri­te­ria includ­ing sus­tain­abil­ity, bio­di­ver­sity, respect for the envi­ron­ment and har­mony with their sur­round­ings.

Those scores were com­bined with the results from the tast­ing panel to declare the win­ners of the first annual Extrascape com­pe­ti­tion.

Not sur­pris­ingly team lead­ers from both sides said there was a strong cor­re­la­tion between the qual­ity of a far­m’s land­scape and the oil it pro­duced.

The top prize was awarded to the Spanish pro­ducer Casa de Hualdo for a Picual and its high-den­sity Andalusian farm which the jury found to be man­aged with great care and highly respec­tive of its his­tory and sur­round­ings, even within its mod­ern farm­ing model.


Taste Panel Members Antonio G. Lauro and Gino Celletti

A spe­cial award was given to the land­scape of Azienda Marina Colonna, the largest pro­ducer in Molise, for its extra­or­di­nary col­lec­tion of Italian cul­ti­vars grown on the estate both for research and for the Colonna range which has intro­duced the world to Molisan olive oils.


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