`At Frantoio Franci, Passion Runs in the Family - Olive Oil Times

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.”

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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