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Tasting Fresh Olive Oils in Italy

Nov 5, 2012 10:55 AM EST
Luciana Squadrilli

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Eating a slice of rus­tic bread with a driz­zle of freshly-milled olive oil is a cen­turies-old rit­ual that recurs every year in each of Italy’s regions at the start of the har­vest.

From the begin­ning of October (or even as early as September as in some Southern regions) to late December, Italian farms and mills face a hec­tic work sched­ule, and there is no bet­ter way to soothe and relax at the end of the work­ing day than with a sim­ple yet deli­cious bite.

This year’s har­vest in Italy seems to have started under a good omen. After a very hot and dry sum­mer and some intense show­ers between September and October, the weather is now fair. Forecasters pre­dict lower quan­ti­ties com­pared to last year, yet olives of a very high qual­ity. Below, a run-through early reports on the har­vest sea­son from dif­fer­ent regions and pro­duc­ers, going from South to Northern Italy.

In Sicily, at the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, the new pro­duc­tion was pre­sented by Federdoc (Regional Federation of Consortia for the Protection of Controlled Denominations of Origin) dur­ing the en primeur” olive oil event held in Trapani at mid October. Sicily is the third pro­duc­ing region in Italy fol­low­ing Tuscany and Apulia, rep­re­sent­ing 14 per­cent of the national pro­duc­tion with its 1,500 tons and 6 POD con­sor­tia.

In Salento, the beau­ti­ful area of Apulia deep down the boot,” the 2012 har­vest data were pre­sented dur­ing a press con­fer­ence held by the Italian olive grow­ers’ asso­ci­a­tion Unaprol in Lecce on October 25th. The press con­fer­ence was also the occa­sion to present the upcom­ing har­vest of the Queen” olive tree ded­i­cated to Michelle Obama, and to demon­strate that it is quite pos­si­ble to pro­duce an excel­lent extra vir­gin olive oil from a 1,400 year-old olive tree.

In Calabria – the toe of Italy’s boot – the new edi­tion of Primolio Fest has just started to cel­e­brate the new extra vir­gin oil pro­duc­tion with a num­ber of activ­i­ties going on up to December and a spe­cial tes­ti­mo­nial: Salvatore Caruso, a 107 years old Calabrian who is liv­ing evi­dence of the pos­i­tive effects of a healthy lifestyle and a diet with local prod­ucts and plenty of extra vir­gin oil.

Salvatore Caruso

From Molise, a small region in Central Italy, where a few pas­sion­ate extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duc­ers founded the Molisextra asso­ci­a­tion, Francesco Travaglini writes about this year’s har­vest­ing on his blog. Before the pick­ing, he said, this year the dry sea­son was long and hard, so here in Molise we should have lower quan­ti­ties com­pared to last year, expect­ing a loss of around 20 per­cent. But luck­ily enough we don’t have any sign of the olive fruit fly, and our olives are com­pletely healthy. So we could expect a very bal­anced oil, even if with a mild fruity aroma.”

Now that the har­vest has just come to an end, the results con­firm his pre­dic­tions. Thanks to sum­mer-like weather in the first half of October the olive-pick­ing was quick, and Travaglini’s 2012 il Tratturello is already bot­tled. The last tree to be har­vested was the impres­sive Leone di Carpineto (Carpineto’s Lion), a 500 year-old tree that this year gen­er­ously gave 240 kilos of Saligna di Larino olives result­ing in 40 litres of a very spe­cial extra vir­gin olive oil.

Francesco Travaglini (OOT file photo)

In Umbria, the green hearth of Italy,” where some of the best olive oils come from, the Gaudenzi fam­ily were among the first to start pick­ing on the 5th October, stick­ing to fam­ily tra­di­tion despite the sum­mer drought. The first oil to be pressed and bot­tled was the Quinta Luna, which was pre­sented at Eataly Roma for a pre­view tast­ing” on October 21. The other Gaudenzi labels fol­lowed, includ­ing the 6 Novembre,” the spe­cial olive oil in mem­ory of Vincenzo Gaudenzi, the mil­l’s founder. The oil ded­i­cated to Vincenzo’s mem­ory changes every year accord­ing to what the fam­ily mem­bers con­sider the best expres­sion of their pro­duc­tion.

Given the dif­fer­ent cli­mate and geo­graphic con­di­tions, and the dif­fer­ent habits and a taste for a more mature olive oil, in Liguria the olive-pick­ing started later. In Badalucco, the Frantoio Roi, led by the Eataly con­sul­tant Franco Boeri Roi, only began har­vest­ing on the 22nd October. The com­pany press release reports laden trees and no olive fruit fly” also thanks to the colder tem­per­a­ture of the last few days. So, from last week the mill was put to work, milling both their own olives and the ones brought in by other farm­ers. ”

Franco Boeri Roi (right) with Nicolas Coleman (OOT file photo)

We are inter­ested as usual,” said Franco Boeri Roi to buy the best olives at higher prices than mar­ket.” The con­fi­dence was jus­ti­fied by the increase in Roi’s pro­duc­tion and sales in 2012, when the new Cru Morga DOP Riviera Ligure joined the house Cru Gaaci and Riva Gianca among the other labels.


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