Southern Italy Farms Well Represented in Index of World's Best Olive Oils

From Puglia to Sicily, producers from across the renowned olive-growing regions of Southern Italy celebrated their success at the world's most prestigious olive oil quality contest.
Olio Mazzone: Giuseppe Campanale and his father Giacomo
Jun. 3, 2020
Ylenia Granitto

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The eighth edi­tion of the NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition cul­mi­nated in the week-long unveil­ing of 584 win­ning brands, all of which were entered into the Official Index of the World’s Best Olive Oils.

The results of the world’s largest and most pres­ti­gious olive oil qual­ity con­test once again con­firmed the promi­nent place of Southern Italian pro­duc­ers among the best in the world.

We are so happy that the Biancolla trees, planted only five years ago, gave us such fra­grant oil in their first year of pro­duc­tion.- Arianna De Marco, co-owner of Cantasole

Passion and a strong bond with the land, cou­pled with inno­va­tion, were widely attrib­uted by the pro­duc­ers who suc­ceeded.

It’s won­der­ful news,” Luca Mennella said, after learn­ing that Evo Nostrum earned a Gold Award at the NYIOOC. It is a nice coin­ci­dence that I received my first impor­tant prize from New York, which was also the des­ti­na­tion of my first major trip at the age of 19.”

See more: The Best Italian Olive Oils

The farmer has been trav­el­ing exten­sively for years, due to his work in the tourism and travel indus­try, and dur­ing a jour­ney to Senegal, met his future wife, Anna Ascione.

They con­tin­ued to travel together, before finally set­tling in the coun­try­side of Serre, in the province of Salerno, where they started a farm and put the expe­ri­ence gained trav­el­ing around the world to good use.

La Nuova Fattoria Mennella is the first agri­cul­tural tourist vil­lage for chil­dren,” Mennalla said. Here, on the hills at the foot of the Alburni Mountains, the fruits of 3,500 Leccino, Frantoio, and the autochtho­nous Rotondella plants have been mas­ter­fully blended to cre­ate a pre­mium extra vir­gin olive oil.

We have a plan to increase our olive groves,” he said. They are man­aged in a com­pletely sus­tain­able way, and so is the entire farm and our mill, pow­ered by a sys­tem of recov­ery and reuse of all the resources from rain­wa­ter to the mill wastes.”

Nestled close to a huge wooded area with­out indus­trial pol­lu­tion, our land is a safe envi­ron­ment both for our olive trees and kids,” he added.

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Luca Mennella and his Gold ward-winning Evo Nostrum, a medium-intensity blend

In Puglia, Giovanni Simeone earned his fourth Gold Award in a row for his Pavoni brand, an organic Coratina mono­va­ri­etal. He also earned a Silver Award for his Leccino mono­va­ri­etal.

We are very pleased to receive these fur­ther recog­ni­tions of our qual­ity,” the farmer from Cerignola, in the province of Foggia, said. Our prod­ucts orig­i­nate from the land sur­round­ing an ancient masse­ria, which stands on a hill in the plain area of the Tavoliere delle Puglie.”

The cen­turies-old for­ti­fied farm­house looks out over a 200-hectare (494-acre) farm, of which 23 hectares (57 acres) are ded­i­cated to the cul­ti­va­tion of Coratina, Leccino and Pendolino olives, flanked by vari­eties used to pro­duce table olives, such as Bella di Spagna, Bella di Cerignola and Ascolana.

We planted our olive grove in 1986 and started to sell the fruits to the millers,” Simeone said. Then, when I took the reins of the com­pany, in 2007, I decided to invest in a qual­ity project. I attended a tast­ing course, and devoted our farm to the mak­ing of excel­lent extra vir­gin olive oil, obtained thanks to the col­lab­o­ra­tion of a mill with high tech­no­log­i­cal stan­dards.”

Since then, the Mercaldi-Simeone fam­ily, with respect for the his­tory of the masse­ria and the unspoiled envi­ron­ment which hosts them, pro­mote respon­si­ble and sus­tain­able man­age­ment of crops and resources.

Harvesting olives in Puglia for Cantasole

In Ruvo di Puglia, north of Bari, Olio Mazzone earned a Gold Award thanks to the work of Giuseppe Campanale and his father Giacomo, who has exten­sive expe­ri­ence work­ing as a miller.

It was the first time that we par­tic­i­pated in the NYIOOC,” he said. This award has given us an even big­ger sat­is­fac­tion as a result.”

The Campanale farm is located on a hilly area, adja­cent to the Alta Murgia National Park, where 200 Coratina trees are grown in a cal­care­ous, stony soil.

In addi­tion to our fruits, we use the best ones har­vested by local pro­duc­ers who pur­sue our same high-qual­ity stan­dards and who are often linked to our mill since the begin­ning of its his­tory,” said Campanale, who runs the facil­ity founded in the 1920s by his great-grand­fa­ther, Tommaso Mazzone.

In their his­toric mill, Campanale has always been com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing an impec­ca­ble ser­vice to small grow­ers, with whom they have built up a trust­ful rela­tion­ship.

We are devel­op­ing a project to improve the machin­ery since we have a con­tin­u­ous cycle sys­tem still equipped with gran­ite mill­stones,” Campanale said. They give great results with our gen­er­ous Coratina, but we will soon add a lat­est-gen­er­a­tion crusher which allows us to work with even greener olives. This is because we always strive for the high­est qual­ity.”

San Pietro Vernotico, in the province of Brindisi, wel­comed two Gold Awards, one for the mono­va­ri­etal Cantasole Biancolilla, and one for the blend of Leccino and Picholine, Cantasole, the lat­ter of which enjoyed a series of suc­cess at the NYIOOC over the last five years.

It is incred­i­ble every time,” Arianna De Marco told Olive Oil Times. This is the high­light of our year.”

In the heart of Salento, two miles from the sea, her fam­ily com­pany man­ages 60,000 plants of Leccino, Picholine, Biancolilla, Coratina and Cima di Melfi, as well as Cellina di Nardò and Ogliarola Santina, two typ­i­cal vari­eties of this region, spread over a flat area of 300 hectares (740 acres).

Eighty per­cent of our olive trees are a cen­tury-old, yet the youngest ones have yielded the award-win­ning oils,” De Marco said. We are so happy that the Biancolla trees, planted only five years ago, gave us such fra­grant oil in their first year of pro­duc­tion.”

Arianna De Marco at Cantasole, which won two Gold Awards at the 2020 NYIOOC

It was a thrill to taste it, espe­cially at the end of a sea­son char­ac­ter­ized by sum­mer drought that ini­tially seemed to upset the fla­vor of our oils; and still in the end we man­aged to obtain bal­anced high-qual­ity prod­ucts,” she added.

In Sicily, Titone won its sec­ond con­sec­u­tive Gold Award for an organic blend.

We are so pleased about this recog­ni­tion,” said Antonella Titone, after hear­ing the news of the win, from her farm in the province of Trapani. We got this result thanks to a proper blend­ing all our vari­eties, Nocellara del Belice, Cerasuola and a small per­cent­age of Coratina and Biancolilla.”

Antonella Titone

Harvested from the end of September until no later than the third week of October and stored in a tem­per­a­ture-con­trolled facil­ity, olives were crushed in a few hours.

My grand­fa­ther, who was a phar­ma­cist, cre­ated the farm, ini­tially pro­duc­ing grapes for the Marsala wine, and from that period I remem­ber those beau­ti­ful, huge oak bar­rels,” she said. Then, in the 1980s the com­pany was con­verted from a vine­yard into organic olive grove, years before the reg­u­la­tion on organic farm­ing entered into force, and we were among the first to aban­don the con­ven­tional sys­tem in favor of more nat­ural and sus­tain­able farm­ing.”

Still, with the same atten­tion to the envi­ron­ment and com­mit­ment to qual­ity, they man­age an olive grove of 5,000 plants of dif­fer­ent ages, some of which are cen­turies-old, located on the flat land between Marsala and Trapani.

Our olive groves lie on the coast,” Titone said. From the ter­race of our farm­house I see the Egadi Islands and I can breathe the scent of the sea.”


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