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.


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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