`New Faces Among the Old Trees of an Award-Winning Buccheri Cooperative - Olive Oil Times

New Faces Among the Old Trees of an Award-Winning Buccheri Cooperative

May. 12, 2015
Luciana Squadrilli

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We already wrote about the vil­lage of Buccheri — a pic­turesque Sicilian ham­let nes­tled on the slopes of the Hyblaean moun­tain range, once part of a sub­merged vol­canic com­plex — whose econ­omy is mainly based on olive grow­ing and extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­tion. Some of the most awarded Italian olive oils of the sea­son hail from the area, includ­ing an oil from Azienda Agricola La Tonda (which earned a Gold Award at the 2015 New York International Olive Oil Competition) and the Terraliva farm.

But this year’s top win­ner in Buccheri, and maybe even in all of Italy, is with­out a doubt Agrestis. Besides earn­ing a Golden Medal at the Sol D’Oro 2015 com­pe­ti­tion (with their Fiore d’Oro PDO Monti Iblei) their fan­tas­tic Nettaribleo PDO Monti Iblei was declared one of the world’s best organic olive oils at NYIOOC, achiev­ing the Best in Class Award in the medium fruity, mono­va­ri­etal, organic cat­e­gory.

Nettaribleo, with its intense aroma of grass and medium ripe tomato, is one of the five extra vir­gin olive oils pro­duced by the farm. Others include the Tonda Iblea organic monocul­ti­var Bell’Omio, the Verd’Olivo intense blend of Moresca, Biancolilla and Verdese and the Foglia d’Argento del­i­cate blend of Tonda Iblea, Carolea, Biancolilla and Nocellara. The farm also pro­duces a num­ber of pre­serves, sauces and table olives.

NYIOOC Best in Class winner Agrestis Nettaribleo DOP Bio

Giuseppe Nicotra and Lorenzo Paparone, res­i­dents of Buccheri and life­long friends, launched the small coop­er­a­tive in 2003, to pro­tect the cen­tury-old trees grow­ing on the steep lands nearby and to turn the domes­tic pro­duc­tion into a qual­ity busi­ness.

Their sons Pietro and Salvatore then joined them, improv­ing the busi­ness with their spe­cial­ized knowl­edge: Pietro is a 25 year-old, grad­u­ate in eco­nom­ics while Salvatore, 22, has almost com­pleted his stud­ies in food tech­nolo­gies.


Meeting those two young farm­ers in the small square in the heart of Buccheri, by the old foun­tain framed by olive trees and flow­ers, gave this writer a sense of relief: a sign that younger gen­er­a­tions will be tak­ing care of the olive trees again.

They drove us through the com­pa­ny’s olive groves scat­tered all around Buccheri’s hills, from the steep ter­races of La Stritta (“the nar­row”) gorge delim­ited by tra­di­tional dry stone walls to the twisted thou­sand-year-old trees grow­ing in Sant’Andrea’s plain, also called the cra­dle of olives.” The whole area, at an alti­tude of about 820 meters above sea level, is made of steep hills, beau­ti­ful woods, and ravines.

They grow sev­eral local vari­eties but their jewel is the Tonda Iblea, which owes its name to the round (tonda) shape of the olives and to the moun­tains’ name. It is an extra­or­di­nary vari­ety – Pietro and Salvatore said. It yields great black table olives and won­der­ful extra vir­gin oils with a pecu­liar tomato scent. It only grows in the Hyblaean area, or rather, it only pro­duces fruits here. And Buccheri olive groves are the best.”
See Also:The World’s Best Olive Oils for 2015
Tonda Iblea’s only issue is in the scarce out­put: But qual­ity is unpar­al­leled,” pointed out Salvatore. Since our fathers decided to aim for qual­ity, we even reduced the out­put by har­vest­ing the olives ear­lier, in October. Local grow­ers used to har­vest the olives in early December, but we found that har­vest­ing green olives is bet­ter, and we strive to achieve the best bal­ance between inten­sity and round­ness, the main fea­tures of Tonda Iblea.”

They cur­rently own about 12,000 trees, mean­ing a hard and con­tin­u­ous work all year long to check every tree’s blos­som­ing stages and to set up the nat­ural traps to pre­vent fly attacks. Moreover, har­vest­ing is a back break­ing job: Harvest has to be done by hand since trac­tors can’t go through the ter­races. Some olive groves are quite big,” Pietro added, but oth­ers are almost inac­ces­si­ble and only include a few trees. Every day we have to col­lect the har­vested olives and take them to the mill in Chiaramonte Gulfi as soon as pos­si­ble, an hour drive from here.”

All those efforts are well rewarded: Agrestis prod­ucts are excel­lent, and their qual­ity is achiev­ing world­wide recog­ni­tion. While they already offer the chance to taste their prod­ucts dur­ing spe­cial evenings with a local cook, Nicotra and Paparone are already plan­ning to improve the com­pa­ny’s facil­i­ties and set up their own olive-press, to utterly improve their award-win­ning prod­ucts.


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