Resilience and Innovation Breed Success for Italian Producers

What unites 2020 NYIOOC award winners of all sizes is their innovation and use of technology.
Investments in their olive mill led to success for Tre Olive's prodcuers.
Jun. 11, 2020
Paolo DeAndreis

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Of the many lessons being learned at the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition, one has made itself clear to Italian pro­duc­ers: inno­va­tion and resilience pay off.

Italian pro­duc­ers of all sizes came away from the world’s most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity con­test with a com­bined 103 Gold Awards and 36 Silver Awards. Harnessing the power of tech­nol­ogy, along with putting in some hard work, turned out to be a win­ning com­bi­na­tion for pro­duc­ers of all sizes.

We tagged every sin­gle tree with a bar­code and with the soft­ware I devel­oped, we could mon­i­tor the behav­ior of every sin­gle tree over time. That thor­ough job… allowed us to pro­duce our best oil qual­i­ties in just a few years.- Roberto Arnetoli, co-owner of Azienda Agricola 500

That was the case for Azienda Agricola 500, a pro­ducer in Tuscany that won two Gold Awards for the third time in a row at the NYIOOC. The small busi­ness com­bines the agro­nomic knowl­edge of one of its co-founders with the tech­no­log­i­cal know-how of the other.

We are delighted and hon­ored by these Gold Awards. We began our adven­ture in olive oil just five years ago and with these awards we have a strong con­fir­ma­tion that our farm took the right path for­ward,” Roberto Arnetoli, co-owner of the com­pany, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also: The Best Olive Oils from Italy

The com­pany har­vests from about 15 acres of olive trees on the hills of Tuscany, not far from Florence. The name, 500, comes from the aver­age ele­va­tion of the region.

We have trees at 400 meters (1,300 feet) above sea level up to about 600 (2,000 feet), which means their pro­duc­tion can be dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent,” Arnetoli said. The hilly nature of our ter­ri­tory also makes our olives receive dif­fer­ent lev­els of wind, sun and so forth.”

We are now pro­duc­ing four dif­fer­ent extra vir­gin olive oils, but with the last two, named 500 L and 500 X, there is still some work to do,” he added.

The two olive oils that secured Gold Awards this year are blends. The first one, 500 M, is mostly made from the Moraiolo cul­ti­var, while 500 C is a blend of sev­eral dif­fer­ent cul­ti­vars.

When we first arrived at this farm, which is close to where I was born, we found ancient trees that had been struck by the icy win­ter of 1986 and aban­doned for many years,” Arnetroli said. So we decided to take an inven­tory, while restor­ing the trees’ pro­duc­tiv­ity and health.”

We tagged every sin­gle tree with a bar­code and with the soft­ware I devel­oped, we could mon­i­tor the behav­ior of every sin­gle tree over time,” he added. That thor­ough job, along with the excel­lent qual­ity of the local oil mill that oper­ates in a nitro­gen con­trolled envi­ron­ment, allowed us to pro­duce our best oil qual­i­ties in just a few years.”

The land defines the chal­lenges, scents and oppor­tu­ni­ties, accord­ing to Marco Viola, owner of Azienda Agraria Viola. The Umbria-based pro­ducer won a Gold Award for his Viola Colleruita DOP.

Our olives come from trees that you would not find in Puglia or in Spain, smaller trees, perched on stony hills,” he told Olive Oil Times. There are many ancient trees that give shape to our ter­ri­tory and to the spe­cial work we under­take to choose and man­age the fruits.”

The farm works closely with sev­eral local grow­ers, all of whom share what they have – from agro­nomic tech­niques and organic fer­til­iz­ers to knowl­edge about tim­ing the har­vest and olive oil extrac­tion tech­nolo­gies – to col­lec­tively pro­duce higher-qual­ity oils.

Together, we choose the best olives of the sea­son and set a com­mon strat­egy for the har­vest­ing based on an ideal tim­ing of the verai­son (ripen­ing process),” Viola said.

The fruits are trans­formed in the far­m’s oil mill, a plant built with the lat­est gen­er­a­tion of milling tech­nol­ogy.

We bonded over time as a ter­ri­tory,” Viola said. As a whole, we ended up man­ag­ing almost 200,000 acres, with the same vision, the same idea of pro­duc­ing a very high-qual­ity olive oil. We are one with our land, we pro­duce olive oils with very spe­cific char­ac­ter­is­tics, oils that are bit­ter and spicy.”

Among the best olive oils selected by the 2020 NYIOOC panel of judges were three mono­va­ri­etals pro­duced by Monini, one of the largest Italian olive oil pro­duc­ers.

A few years ago, we decided to make a few select high-qual­ity mono­va­ri­etal olive oils, based on the cul­ti­vars and the ter­ri­to­ries we are tra­di­tion­ally active in,” Marco Petrini, head of Monini North America, told Olive Oil Times.

Monini earned its Gold Award with Monocultivar Frantoio, an oil pro­duced in Umbria, where the com­pany has thrived for a cen­tury.

At the core of our work here, there are the three spe­cific con­fig­u­ra­tions that can be used in our oil mill in Spoleto to process dif­fer­ent olives,” Petrini said.

Every cul­ti­var has its own con­fig­u­ra­tion and the goal is to get the most out of the dif­fer­ent olives.

Frantoio trees, for instance, usu­ally pro­duce small olives, lighter than two grams (0.07 ounces),” he said. Thanks to a series of cul­ti­var-specifics, like using a ham­mer-like press­ing method instead of the tra­di­tional blades, we get a higher yield from Frantoio olives while keep­ing its high-qual­ity fea­tures intact.”

Heat exchang­ers and hor­i­zon­tal knead­ers are also applied to the cul­ti­var.

All of that results in a high-qual­ity prod­uct with an intense emer­ald color and all the scents and taste you can expect from Frantoio,” Petrini said.

The other two Silver Awards won by the com­pany came from mono­va­ri­etals pro­duced in Sicily and Puglia, from the Nocellara and Coratina cul­ti­vars. In these two parts of south­ern Italy, the pro­duc­tion and man­ag­ing pro­to­cols of Monini are adopted to suit the cul­ti­vars, such as late-night or early-dawn har­vest­ing and tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled trans­port.

We are proud to have been taken into con­sid­er­a­tion by the judges at the 2020 NYIOOC, where we com­peted with his­toric local pro­duc­ers and the oil mills of Umbria, local com­pa­nies whose prod­ucts are of an absolutely high qual­ity,” Petrini said.

Veneto, in north­east­ern Italy, is one of the regions of the coun­try that has been most impacted by the cli­matic chal­lenges of the pre­vi­ous sea­son, but even these did not hin­der the results of some of its olive oil pro­duc­ers.

We are proud to have earned a Silver Award with our organic extra vir­gin olive oil, Redoro, a prod­uct that stems from ded­i­ca­tion, pas­sion and tech­nol­ogy,” Daniele Salvagno, Redoro’s pres­i­dent, told Olive Oil Times.

The organic prod­uct is one of the most in-demand in the mar­ket, but for us it is also sym­bolic of a sus­tain­able approach to olive oil mak­ing,” Salvagno said.

Apart from the oil in itself, and thanks to the oil mill tech­nolo­gies we have invested in, every step of our work is sus­tain­able,” he added. From the bio­log­i­cal fight against the olive fruit fly and the use of the olive pits for heat­ing, to the solar energy fuel­ing all of our oil milling activ­i­ties and the re-use of the polyphe­nol-rich water.”

Redoro has heav­ily invested in its oil mills, which are con­tin­u­ously updated to the needs of the har­vest­ing sea­son.

There are no secrets in the qual­ity of our prod­uct,” Salvagno said. Apart from the olive selec­tion, we use machin­ery to remove leaves and peti­oles, instru­ments to keep the work­ing tem­per­a­ture as low as pos­si­ble dur­ing the extrac­tion and the fol­low­ing pro­ce­dures.”

We also make the mill work slowly, stor­ing the olives in a nitro­gen con­trolled envi­ron­ment,” he added. The oil gets directly bot­tled in that envi­ron­ment in spe­cial, high-qual­ity bot­tles that come from our part­ners in Milan, a recy­cled-glass jar that shields the olive oil from ultra­vi­o­let light.”

Thanks to this pro­ce­dure, Salvagno said that Redoro can keep the scents, aro­mas and taste sen­sa­tions of its oils intact for longer than many of its com­peti­tors.

Italian pro­ducer Tre Olive won two awards at the 2020 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.

For us, the awards val­i­date the improve­ments that we com­mit­ted to over the last sev­eral years: Investments in grove equip­ment, upgrades at our mill, and chang­ing processes that have been in place for decades in order to improve qual­ity,” owner Joe Maruca said.

The Calabrian pro­ducer earned a Gold Award for its Campo Dieci, and a Silver Award for its Tre Olive, both medium-inten­sity Carolea mono­va­ri­etals.


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