`At Frantoio Franci, Passion Runs in the Family

Producer Profiles

At Frantoio Franci, Passion Runs in the Family

Aug. 11, 2015
Luciana Squadrilli

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When Fer­nando Franci set up his farm with his brother Franco in Mon­ten­ero d’Or­cia, over 60 years ago, things were much dif­fer­ent than today: no mobile phones or QR codes, no com­put­er­ized machines.

Yet many of the olive trees that still grow on the fam­i­ly’s land were here decades, even cen­turies ago. His son Gior­gio, today lead­ing the fam­ily busi­ness, Fran­toio Franci, which has grown to be one of the most renowned brands of Ital­ian extra vir­gin olive oil, still recalls the quar­rels to intro­duce a fax machine and other small inno­va­tions.

But Fer­nando — 86 years old and still sur­vey­ing the olive milling and the daily ship­ments from the Mon­ten­ero farm to all over the world — is clearly proud of his son’s achieve­ments: Watch­ing our bot­tles leav­ing for over 40 coun­tries is a great source of pride for me, and I greet each of the boxes as they leave, bid­ding them to go far in the world,” he said.

An expe­ri­enced grower and pruner, Fer­nando used to care after his own olive trees and the ones grow­ing on other local lands such as those belong­ing to the his­tor­i­cal Tenuta Banfi. When the famous Tus­can wine brand won a prize for an olive oil actu­ally pro­duced by the Franci fam­ily for them, Gior­gio decided it was time to enter the extra vir­gin busi­ness on his own. It was 1996 when the first Fran­ci’s extra vir­gin olive oil obtained from their own olives, Villa Magra, was launched.

I went to Verona to present it at Sol. I was sure we had made a good prod­uct but I had no idea of how to pro­pose it. I did not even have busi­ness cards or brochures,” Gior­gio Franci recalled. There I decided what I wanted to do: Aim for top qual­ity, and let peo­ple know and appre­ci­ate our extra vir­gin as much as pos­si­ble.”

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After 20 years, he can def­i­nitely say he achieved his aim. Fran­ci’s extra vir­gin olive oils are sold all over the world, from Italy’s finest restau­rants to Chi­na’s lux­ury tem­ples and Eng­land’s depart­ment stores. And since 1999 — when Le Treb­biane, a blend of Fran­toio, Moraiolo, Lec­cino and Oli­vas­tra, won the first Leone d’Oro” award — the name of Fran­toio Franci has shown in almost every qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion and guide.

In 2013, the Villa Magra Grand Cru — the dia­mond point of Fran­ci’s pro­duc­tion, an ele­gant sin­gle vari­ety extra vir­gin olive oil obtained by selected olives from a small cru” of the Villa Magra grove — was appointed Best in Class at the New York Inter­na­tional Olive Oil Com­pe­ti­tion. In 2014 the farm won two Gold Awards with Fran­cibio, the har­monic and com­plex organic extra vir­gin, and with the intense and long last­ing Villa Magra, a blend made of Fran­toio Cor­reg­gi­olo, Moraiolo and Lec­cino olives.

The Fran­cis struck gold again at the 2015 NYIOOC with both the Villa Magra and Fran­cibio brands, to join an elite group of three-time win­ners at the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil com­pe­ti­tion.

Vis­it­ing Fran­toio Franci and its olive groves with Gior­gio Franci, we were struck by the impres­sive Oli­vas­tra Seg­gianese: a fas­ci­nat­ing sin­gle vari­ety obtained from the olives of the cen­tury-old olive trees of the local cul­ti­var grow­ing on the Monte Ami­ata slopes, which in 2014 had a dis­tinc­tive smell of rose-leaves and exotic spices com­bined with a gen­tle ini­tial taste that then gave way to a long-last­ing, bal­samic pun­gency. We tasted it with a deli­cious salad made of pine nuts, cel­ery and bot­targa (cured mul­let roe) and it tasted fan­tas­tic.

Olivastra olives at Frantoio Franci

At the same time, we wit­nessed Gior­gio Fran­ci’s focused pas­sion for pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil, from the field to the bot­tling process, includ­ing the up-to-date milling sys­tem he adapted to his needs and knowl­edge. He knows each olive tree that has been tended by him and his father, includ­ing the old Oli­vas­tra trees belong­ing to the Banfi estate they res­cued from aban­don­ment.

This year, in July, he was quite sat­is­fied with the olives’ con­di­tions — a thick skin and small pit, mean­ing a lot of pulp — but a lit­tle wor­ried about the dry con­di­tions. Now that rain­falls are arriv­ing over Tus­cany and the rest of Italy, there could be a con­cern for too much rain, but he seems ready to face it: Expe­ri­ence is impor­tant,” Gior­gio Franci told us, and each har­vest is a chance to learn more. Yet, every year is dif­fer­ent and we have to be flex­i­ble and ready to adapt to the spe­cific sit­u­a­tion.”

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