`The Muraglia Family, Stubborn by Choice - Olive Oil Times

The Muraglia Family, Stubborn by Choice

Jul. 20, 2015
Luciana Squadrilli

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Have you ever heard the Italian word cap­atosta? Literally mean­ing hard-headed, it is a ver­nac­u­lar, and fairly expres­sive term used in Southern Italy to indi­cate a stub­born per­son. Savino Muraglia is a young pro­ducer whose fam­ily has been grow­ing and pro­cess­ing olives for five gen­er­a­tions in Andria, an Apulian vil­lage not far from Bari and the enchant­ing Castel del Monte. He wit­tingly uses this word to describe him­self, and you can detect a hint of smug­ness in his face as he pro­nounces it.

Savino, now in his thir­ties, inher­ited his name from his grand­fa­ther and great-grand­fa­ther along with the pas­sion for olive oil and the fam­ily trait stub­born­ness. Savino’s great-grand­fa­ther bought the land, where a 450-year old Coratina olive tree still stands, almost 150 years ago, patiently putting together almost 40 hectares of mostly Coratina trees and a mill. He was a cap­atosta, too.

Grandfather Savino launched the farm­ing com­pany, now in its 5th gen­er­a­tion, to man­age the com­plete pro­duc­tion process. He insisted on pro­cess­ing the olives as fast as pos­si­ble by invest­ing in mod­ern machin­ery and increas­ing the hourly pro­duc­tion from 2,500 to 5,000 kilo­grams to process them within 24 hours from their arrival at the mill.

Vincenzo, Savino jr.‘s father, con­tin­ued the tra­di­tion car­ing after the olive groves and pro­cess­ing the olives; but times were chang­ing and sell­ing the loose oil to big com­pa­nies was less and less reward­ing and did not high­light the oil qual­ity and the hard job to obtain it.


In 2008, the young Savino came into play. Born and raised among the olive trees, he left Apulia to study and work in Finance but even­tu­ally went back to his fam­ily town to save the farm from clos­ing down and to give the right lus­ter to the Muraglia’s oil. Even though he looks more like a mod­ern busi­ness­man than a farmer, he shares with the rest of the fam­ily the love for Apulian land and for extra vir­gin olive oil, and obsti­nacy of course.

It was Savino who insisted on bot­tling and label­ing the oil with the fam­ily name and invest­ing in the pro­duc­t’s image and pack­ag­ing. He worked with local crafts­men to cre­ate won­der­ful, multi-col­ored pot­tery jars for the pre­mium pack­age (he is con­vinced that the ceramic lets the oil breathe” inside the bot­tle and oxi­da­tion is min­i­mized). The bot­tles have become col­lec­table pieces of design in kitchens and liv­ing rooms.

Muraglia’s Premium Packaging

Despite proudly declar­ing that they still pick their olives by hand and press them cold in ancient stone presses, the pro­duc­tion — super­vised by father Vincenzo while uncle Francesco cares about bot­tling and pack­ag­ing — is with the help of mod­ern tech­nolo­gies; trace­abil­ity is also guar­an­teed through a ded­i­cated sys­tem on the com­pa­ny’s web­site.

The Intense Fruity extra vir­gin is made with Coratina olives, giv­ing birth to a robust oil with fierce veg­etable notes; a real polyphe­nols bomb” that goes well with the rus­tic fla­vors of Apulian land fares. Peranzana olives give the Medium Fruity an ele­gant and well-bal­anced char­ac­ter which per­fectly matches with fish and other gen­tle recipes.

Other expres­sions of Savino’s cap­atosta is the pit­ted oil, which he says makes the strong Coratina’s taste smoother and enjoy­able even for those who still doubt bit­ter­ness as a pre­cious fea­ture of extra vir­gin olive oil.

Fumo beechwood-smoked olive oil

Then there is the Fumo (“smoke”) obtained through cold-smok­ing with nat­ural beech­wood. The oil is set on thin trays in a ded­i­cated room where the wood’s smoke gen­tly per­vade it with­out alter­ing the nat­ural room tem­per­a­ture. Vincenzo’s expe­ri­ence will tell how long the process must last. Since the Fumo is made in the spring when it is not too hot and the oil is ready to absorb the smoke, gen­tly blend­ing the aro­mas. This not only pre­serves the neu­traceti­cal” con­tent of the Peranzana oil, Vincenzo says, but it also extends its shelf-life.

The idea was born when chat­ting with a friend who is a chef, almost for fun,” Savino recalls. He started a three year-long series of exper­i­ments and attempts to find the best bal­ance with the aroma of the smoked wood. Coratina oil proved to be too intense and intru­sive, while the milder Peranzana was per­fect, bal­anc­ing the del­i­cate smoky notes with the fresh and gen­tly pun­gent aroma of the oil.

We tried it to lightly sea­son a won­der­ful Cecina de Léon, the tra­di­tional beef hind leg salted and slowly cured from north­west­ern Spain, and it was sim­ply divine.

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