Italian Producers Explain What It Takes to Succeed in a Tough Campaign

Harvesting at the right time, proper stewardship of the land, attention to details, teamwork, perseverance, and passion were all listed by award-winning Italian producers as the reasons for their success.

Chickens enjoying the shade of olive trees at San Bartolomeo
Jun. 25, 2019
By Ylenia Granitto
Chickens enjoying the shade of olive trees at San Bartolomeo

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I have yet to meet some­one at the top of their career, a num­ber one,’ who does their job with­out pas­sion,” Giovanni Bonfiglio said, when asked about the key to suc­cess in such a dif­fi­cult year for Italian olive grow­ers.

Passion leads you to pay atten­tion to detail, to take care each phase of the pro­duc­tion process and to work care­fully and thor­oughly,” he added. That is exactly what qual­ity pro­duc­ers do.”

Considering the dif­fi­cul­ties we expe­ri­enced over the last four cam­paigns, I can say that the secret (to suc­cess) is being con­stant and per­se­ver­ant.- Claudio De Luca, owner of Case d’Alto

At Santa Catrini farm, near Siracusa, Nocellara Etnea and Biancolilla cul­ti­vars com­bine to cre­ate the award-win­ning Arita. Nocellara Messinese, Nocellara del Belice and Zaituna com­plete the com­po­si­tion of the olive grove man­aged by Bonfiglio.

I can say that last year the cli­mate has not gone hand in hand with the life­cy­cle of the olive trees, which have been under stress, with an impact on pro­duc­tion,” the Sicilian pro­ducer noted, explain­ing that May was tor­rid and heavy rain fell in August.

See more: Olive Oil News from Italy

Since then, it has become fun­da­men­tal to con­stantly mon­i­tor the olive grove, in order to limit the effects of already unavoid­able extreme weather con­di­tions with prompt action,” Bonfiglio added. All this requires a cer­tain pas­sion, thanks to which we have been able to achieve suc­cess at the 2019 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.”

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The period of time between har­vest­ing and milling is another key fac­tor to obtain a great prod­uct, accord­ing to Silvio Marsan of San Bartolomeo, who won a Best in Class Award.

We have the pos­si­bil­ity to imme­di­ately press the olives in our mill, which is adja­cent to the olive grove,” he said. Many olives were swollen due to the amount of water that they con­tained after abun­dant rains, and then they were more sus­cep­ti­ble to dam­age dur­ing trans­porta­tion. But we took all the fruit to the mill in an hour after the har­vest, and this has cer­tainly improved the qual­ity of our extra vir­gin olive oil.”

During the sea­son, it was fun­da­men­tal to inter­vene with all avail­able means,” Marsan added. Organic treat­ments can be very effec­tive, then, for exam­ple, we used kaolin on our olive trees against the olive fruit fly.”

The olive groves of San Bartolomeo, which are mainly com­posed of Caninese with some Frantoio, Leccino, and Pendolino trees, are also home to free-range chick­ens. This type of inte­grated farm­ing helps pro­tect the land on which the olive trees are grown.

“[The chick­ens] enjoy the shade of the olive trees and con­tribute to their fer­til­iza­tion,” Marsan said.

Proper stew­ard­ship of the land was a com­mon theme among suc­cess­ful pro­duc­ers last har­vest sea­son. Teamwork was too. In light of unusual weather dur­ing the olive har­vest­ing sea­son, it was impor­tant for pro­duc­ers to get the fruit off all the trees and to the mills as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Teamwork is a key to con­sis­tent suc­cess, accord­ing to the Korops. (Left to right) Alex and Ella Korop, Valentino Ciarla and David Giacomelli.

Our key to suc­cess is our land,” said Alex Korop, co-owner with his wife, Ella, of Sant’Anastasio farm, which is man­aged in part­ner­ship with pro­duc­tion direc­tor David Giacomelli.

We are blessed with a unique land, and every olive that goes into our Elleivæ Biologico comes from our plot of land located on the hills of Pontassieve, near Florence,” Korop said. Another strong point is our peo­ple, who pas­sion­ately work on this land.”

Korop said that the fam­ily and Giacomelli have a plan to reha­bil­i­tate 2,300 olive trees and are con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of expan­sion in the same val­ley through long term leases or pur­chases of land.

To obtain a good prod­uct it is also impor­tant to press the olives within a short time after being picked, and then we press every batch on the same day of the har­vest,” he said, adding that they man­age their groves com­pletely organ­i­cally.

We recently bought a plot with trees that have not been treated prop­erly for quite some time, and now we need to prune and recover them,” Korop added. This process is expected to take three years, dur­ing which we will work with the usual com­mit­ment to qual­ity and respect for the envi­ron­ment.”

Once again, the soil is iden­ti­fied as an essen­tial ele­ment for the qual­ity of the extra vir­gin olive oil made by Saverio Luzzi at Villa La Ripa.

This land is very rich in sul­fur com­pounds, and I believe that, in cer­tain years espe­cially, these pro­mote the devel­op­ment of excep­tional organolep­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics in our prod­ucts,” the Tuscan pro­ducer and neu­ropsy­chi­a­trist said.

Luzzi gave the name of Psyco to his blend of Leccino, Frantoio and Moraiolo. His olive trees sur­round an old Renaissance-era farm­house, built around a tower from the year 1000 on the gen­tle hills of Arezzo, in the heart of Tuscany.

Moreover, it is impor­tant to iden­tify the right time for har­vest­ing,” he added. Now, I can say that an early har­vest was cru­cial this year; then the olives were imme­di­ately brought to the mill, as we pressed them in no more than two hours, and this allowed us to obtain excel­lent results in such a dif­fi­cult sea­son.”

Each small ges­ture made through­out the pro­duc­tion cycle has allowed us to make the dif­fer­ence between the ordi­nary and the extra­or­di­nary.- Marco Prosseda, of DueNoveSei

While proper stew­ard­ship of the land and har­vest­ing at the right time are both cru­cial to pro­duc­ing an award-win­ning oil, doing so year in and year out requires per­se­ver­ance.

Considering the dif­fi­cul­ties we expe­ri­enced over the last four cam­paigns, I can say that the secret is being con­stant and per­se­ver­ant,” Claudio De Luca said.

At Case d’Alto, he makes his mono­va­ri­etal Coevo Ravece from olive groves located between Grottaminarda and Flumeri.

A con­tin­u­ous mon­i­tor­ing of the plants, organ­i­cally man­aged, allowed us to detect the first attack of the olive fruit fly,” he said, explain­ing that they acted imme­di­ately and saved the fruits thanks to the appli­ca­tion of kaolin and both sticky and attrac­tant traps, which release an intense smell in the fields. Thus, healthy olives were quickly brought to the mill.

Despite the com­plex year that required more work and there­fore higher costs, prices remained unchanged since last year,” De Luca added. We want to meet our con­sumers’ needs, try­ing to offer them an excel­lent Ravece mono­va­ri­etal every year.”

Along with team­work, per­se­ver­ance and main­tain­ing the olive groves in a respon­si­ble way, Marco Prosseda of DueNoveSei said that pay­ing atten­tion to the small­est details and every day minu­tiae is key to con­sis­tently pro­duc­ing high qual­ity olive oils.

I think that the small things we do every day, day after day, are fun­da­men­tal to obtain a suc­cess­ful prod­uct,” Prosseda said. This becomes even more clear after last win­ter’s frost: what appeared to be a dis­as­ter, turned out to be an oppor­tu­nity to improve, as we returned to the olive grove and real­ized that it was more nec­es­sary than ever to pay atten­tion to every lit­tle detail and act with great care to heal the harmed olive trees, start­ing from a thor­ough ad-hoc prun­ing.”

In his olive groves, sur­rounded by the Sabina hills, Prosseda grows native cul­ti­vars such as Carboncella and Salviana, which were blended in the Gold award-win­ning Rosalena with Leccio del Corno and Itrana. Rosciola, Frantoio and Pendolino are also grown on the cal­care­ous soil of Moricone, at the feet of the Lucretili Mountains regional nat­ural park.

We also made changes in mar­ket­ing strat­egy, as we reduced our pro­duc­tion lines from four to two, and this has been effec­tive,” Prosseda said. From prun­ing to pests mon­i­tor­ing, from har­vest­ing the dif­fer­ent vari­eties to the crush­ing in the short­est pos­si­ble time, from stor­ing the oil in tanks under nitro­gen to blend­ing it, while keep­ing it in opti­mal con­di­tions.”

Each small ges­ture made through­out the pro­duc­tion cycle has allowed us to make the dif­fer­ence between the ordi­nary and the extra­or­di­nary,” he added.


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