We met the producer Cesare Bianchini to discover what is behind Domenica Fiore and we ended up in an olive grove that evokes an ancient shore, with sand and shells.
Domenica Fiore orchards lie on the gentle slopes that look over the city of Orvieto. This good exposure is probably among the factors which led over the years to the creation of great extra virgin olive oils, which today come from 10,000 Leccino, Moraiolo, Frantoio and Canino trees between 25 and 70 years of age.
Environment must be respected — this position and these characteristics provide us the ideal conditions to carry out an even more respectful management of our olive groves.
“Our products are the fruit of care and dedication, but nature also plays a fundamental role in quality,” said the skillful producer Cesare Bianchini after the stunning success of the company at the 2017 NYIOOC.
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Domenica Fiore’s story began around the year 2000, when he managed some olive trees with Kim Galavan in Orvieto. With a view to go beyond the minimum targets of yield and quantity, he started to deepen the different attitudes of varieties and to study all of the factors that determine the final result. He attended courses and became a skilled taster.
Meanwhile, Galavan introduced Bianchini to the Canadian businessman Frank Giustra, who sent the Orvieto oils every year for Christmas gifts to his friends.
One day, Giustra offered a blind tasting for popular Canadian chefs. Bianchini’s oil was voted the best, and from that moment they started talking about a partnership to maintain high quality and larger quantities, and the team considered the purchase of new farmland.
In 2010, Domenica Fiore officially started with five olive groves.
“Our basic philosophy was that we should make the best extra virgin olive oil and I knew we could do a good job, but I was skeptical,” Bianchini said, revealing that his doubts disappeared when in 2013 they participated in the first edition of NYIOOC and achieved a Best in Class with Olio Reserva.
“It was not only a great satisfaction but a real turning point,” Bianchini said, trying to explain the excitement of those days.
Then, at the 2014 NYIOOC they won two Gold Awards with Olio Reserva and Olio Novello and a Best in Class with Olio Monaco. “I knew at that point that our quality was a certainty,” he unpretentiously affirmed.
After another great season in 2016 crowned with three Gold Medal, Domenica Fiore had a staggering success at 2017 NYIOOC, obtaining four Gold Awards with Olio Classico, Olio Novello, Olio Monaco and Olio Veritas, and a Best in Class with Olio Reserva.
We drove through the farm, where olive groves alternate with vineyards and woods of tall trees. Oaks, holm oaks, chestnuts and other Mediterranean trees and plants create an ideal microclimate and constitute a natural barrier to any treatments used by farmers nearby.
We went further up the hill to almost 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level, enjoying the wonderful view and the particular appearance of olive trees, due to a light layer of kaolin. It was recently sprayed to help limit the olive fly’s attack and dampen the exposure to the sun.
As you go among the olive trees, you get the feeling that roots are embedded in a beach. The texture of the soil is fine and sandy, composed of a gently yellowish-white powder which dust your shoes like it was dry sand. But most surprisingly, the ground is extraordinarily sprinkled with seashell fragments.
In that moment, I understood the reason for the pattern on the labels of Domenica Fiore’s bottles — olive trees originate from a ground made up of these creatures of the sea.
Once, there used to be a sea shore here. While Bianchini bent down to show me the particular debris that probably dates back to Plio-Pleistocene, we noted something which was sticking out from the ground. We delicately dug it up and we discovered an intact and well-preserved fossil bivalve mollusk of about 15 centimeters (6 inches).
It was extraordinary to come face to face with this witness to the origins and breathe the sea air of a coast that millions of years ago lived in these lands, which now are several miles away from the sea. A myriad of fossil fragments and minerals now constitute and enrich this sandy and well-drained soil.
“Environment must be respected — this position and these characteristics provide us the ideal conditions to carry out an even more respectful management of our olive groves,” said Bianchini. “We conduct an organic management, reusing pruning remains as well as milling byproducts to fertilize the ground, creating a virtuous closed circle,” he explained.
“To maintain a very high quality requires high costs but gives great satisfactions,” the producer affirmed and specified that they carry out harvest based on varieties and then blend the different monovarietals, combining them in different percentages. “I personally take care of this aspect and try to maintain a balance in the sensorial aspect of extra virgin olive oils over the years,” he pointed out.
The extracted oil is immediately stored and conditioned with nitrogen. They adopted a special stainless-steel bottle developed by the University of Florence in collaboration with Marco Mugelli. It allows an optimal preservation completely avoiding oxidation, and it is now their distinctive image. In addition, all the bottles are numbered and signed by Cesare Bianchini, as farmer of the company.
As we go down the hill, we stop at a nice building under construction, which within a month will host a new mill.
“Domenica Fiore was born as the story of three friends, and then became a story of passion and quality,” said Kim Galavan, reached on the phone in Vancouver.
“I can’t wait to see the work of the new facility,” she said, adding that she will be here in time for the harvest. “What I see about Domenica Fiore is passion and commitment to produce only the very best with hard work, every year, without compromise,” she said.
“Harvest is our favorite time of the year. There is nothing more exciting than being present at the first extraction of olive oil. It comes out in its brilliant, green emerald color, while everyone is staring at that new product pouring out, waiting to taste the fruit of a year of hard but passionate work.”
Behind the name of Domenica Fiore is Frank Giustra’s mother. She is Italian, from Calabria…and very proud.