Lazio Producers Achieve Greatness

Deep bonds with the territory, sustainable land management and state-of-the-art extraction techniques are among the keys to Lazio's winning formula.

Fabrizia Cusani and Giampaolo Sodano at the Tuscus mill
Jun. 19, 2020
By Ylenia Granitto
Fabrizia Cusani and Giampaolo Sodano at the Tuscus mill

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Part of our con­tin­u­ing cov­er­age of the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

The results of the eighth NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition proved once again the com­mit­ment and adher­ence to the high­est qual­ity stan­dards of Italian pro­duc­ers, who sub­mit­ted the most entries and col­lected more awards than any other coun­try.

A total of 139 awards went to Italian farm­ers at the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity com­pe­ti­tion. Among the coun­try’s win­ning pro­duc­ers, quite a few hailed from the cen­tral region of Lazio.

It is won­der­ful to obtain recog­ni­tion in such a big, inter­na­tional con­test. The awards we have won over the years are con­fir­ma­tion of a qual­ity trend which we strive to keep up and con­sol­i­date.- Giampaolo Sodano, mas­ter miller at Tuscus

Three of this year’s award win­ners came from the Tuscia area, in north­ern Lazio, and boast a his­tory of suc­cess at the NYIOOC.

Among them was Tamia, which earned two Gold Awards, for their organic Caninese mono­va­ri­etal and an organic blend.

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We are happy about these recog­ni­tions! Every time we get them, it is a great feel­ing,” said Pietro Re, the man­ager of the com­pany, which has been com­mit­ted to qual­ity since its foun­da­tion in 1928.

The Tamia brand comes from an olive grove of about 10,000 trees, includ­ing Canino, Moraiolo, Frantoio, Maurino and Leccino vari­eties.

See Also: The Best Italian Olive Oils

These Golds come at the end of a period that, at first, seemed dif­fi­cult,” Re said. But in the end, it gave us the oppor­tu­nity to com­pletely rethink our work, and the choices we made proved to be absolutely suc­cess­ful.”

We have focused every­thing on the sat­is­fac­tion of con­sumers, since I believe that high-qual­ity oil is no longer reserved for an elite,” he added. More qual­ity means more health and well­be­ing. That’s why it must be avail­able for all.”

Always look­ing for new chal­lenges and ways to improve tech­niques and meth­ods of pro­duc­tion, Re started to col­lab­o­rate with a net­work of qual­i­fied grow­ers through­out Italy over the past few years in order to expand his pro­duc­tion lines.

Photo cour­tesy of Pietro Re.

Relying on the sup­port of a highly pro­fes­sional staff, Re said that Tamia’s mis­sion is to pur­sue the high­est pos­si­ble lev­els of qual­ity, guar­an­tee­ing full trace­abil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity.

The land which was once inhab­ited by Etruscans is also home to Traldi Farm and its extra vir­gin olive oils: the Caninese mono­va­ri­etal, Eximius, and the blend, Athos.

It is a great sat­is­fac­tion for us to be among the win­ners of the NYIOOC again,” said Francesca Boni, who runs the com­pany cre­ated by her grand­fa­ther, Angelo, right after the Second World War.

From that harsh expe­ri­ence, he learned the impor­tance of being able to pro­duce food for the liveli­hood of com­mu­ni­ties and he pur­chased a piece of land,” she said. Since he wanted to be help­ful in that dif­fi­cult time, he paid more than what was required for the plot from the pre­vi­ous owner.”

That act of gen­eros­ity marked the begin­ning of a story of qual­ity and hos­pi­tal­ity now car­ried on suc­cess­fully by Boni and her mother, Elisabetta Traldi.

Their farm, which includes an envi­ron­men­tally-friendly resort, has 3,000 Canino, Frantoio, Moraiolo, Pendolino and Leccino trees at its heart, all of which are sus­tain­ably grown.

The old­est olive trees are located at a dis­tance of eight or 11 meters (26 or 36 feet) from each other,” Boni said, explain­ing that the grove still retains the orig­i­nal plant­ing lay­out. We are going to add another 3,000 trees of dif­fer­ent vari­eties, accord­ing to a more ratio­nal­ized scheme, with the pur­pose to enrich the range of fla­vors of our prod­ucts.”

The con­stant improve­ment of the pro­duc­tion process com­bined with great care for the land are the key ingre­di­ents of the endur­ing qual­ity of Traldi farm, Boni said.

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Francesca Boni and Elisabetta Traldi

The town of Vetralla is also the home of Tuscus, which earned a Silver Award for Re Laris Grand Cru.

It is won­der­ful to obtain recog­ni­tion in such a big, inter­na­tional con­test,” said mas­ter miller Giampaolo Sodano, who man­ages the com­pany with his wife, Fabrizia Cusani. The awards we have won over the years are con­fir­ma­tion of a qual­ity trend which we strive to keep up and con­sol­i­date.”

Three years ago, after car­ry­ing out some exper­i­ments on vari­eties, the pair blended their Canino, grown in the area of Nepi, with Peranzana olives pro­duced by a farmer friend in Foggia, Puglia.

We selected our best fruits to obtain what we called Grand Cru, which is cer­ti­fied accord­ing to the spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the Consortium of Artisan Mills FAPI. I like to call it the friend­ship olive oil,” Sodano said. Our other six prod­uct lines are obtained from 7,000 olive trees grown at L’Olivaia, where the autochtho­nous Canino and Bolzone are flanked by Leccino, Frantoio and Maurino trees.”

Covering around 18 hectares (44.5 acres) of fer­tile, vol­canic soil, the grove is divided into sec­tors, sep­a­rated by rose bushes planted at the head of the rows to give off scents and mark the dif­fer­ent vari­eties.

However, this is not just a mat­ter of aes­thet­ics: since its foun­da­tion in 1992, Tuscus has adopted an eth­i­cal code, with social and envi­ron­men­tal respon­si­bil­ity at its core.

In the south of the Lazio region, Sonnino earned a Gold Award for the organic Itrana mono­va­ri­etal, pro­duced by Lucia Iannotta.

It is great to receive such recog­ni­tion,” Iannotta told Olive Oil Times. It was the first time we par­tic­i­pated at the NYIOOC and the emo­tional impact was bol­stered by the day-by-day unveil­ing of the win­ners.”

Iannotta runs the farm, which was founded by her grand­fa­ther in 1952 and there­after man­aged by her father.

It’s nor­mal now, but when I started out it was not so easy for a woman to be the head of a com­pany in what has tra­di­tion­ally been a male world,” Iannotta said. Against all odds, I took the reins and with the help of my mother and sis­ters, I reached high qual­ity lev­els in the pro­duc­tion of our extra vir­gin olive oils, as well as in a wide range of olive oil-based prod­ucts, includ­ing pick­les and condi­ments.”

Iannotta’s olive groves are ancient, com­posed of 5,000 trees, which are organ­i­cally grown on ter­races sup­ported by dry-stone walls. While the major­ity of the trees are the Itrana vari­ety, there are also some Leccino trees, used to pol­li­nate.

These ancient, enchant­ing man­u­facts add beauty to the land­scape and over­look the coast, where accord­ing to the myth, Ulysses met the enchantress Circe.

When I look out from our orchard toward the sea, I see her pro­file sculpted on the hill­top of Mount Circeo,” Iannotta said. And it looks like she is watch­ing over our olive trees.”


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