LOCATION AND CLIMATE

 

As you might expect, olives grown in cooler areas where there is more moisture (rainfall and dew) exhibit leaner, more restrained characteristics.  This doesn’t however mean that great oil can now be made in Iceland – you need a minimum amount of sunshine to make your Extra Virgin Olive Oil taste remarkable, similarly to tomatoes or stone fruit.

Olive trees are sensitive to winter freeze (the Casaliva cultivar is more resistant to cold, hence being grown in the Garda region).  It is also easier to farm organically where the climate is more stable and less chemical sprays are required to keep the trees healthy.

OLIVE MATURITY

 

Here’s the thing – all olives are green.  When they become fully mature, they turn black.
Olive maturity at the time of harvest is a major factor in flavour and quality: olives harvested earlier (green olives) feature more bitter, grassy characteristics, with lower yields and with the highest anti-oxidant content.  The oil is a much more intense green colour and has a longer shelf-life.  In terms of production, milling can take longer with green olives (a longer malaxation - the action of slowly churning milled olives to release droplets of oil - is needed and can be more complicated) but the results are far superior!  Don’t choose olive oil from over mature fruit: it lacks all the potential goodness and flavour.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL IN GROVE AND MILL

 

People who care passionately about what they make and follow it personally every day have the capacity to create products with far higher quality, with integrity, and that taste of where they come from.  They are also able to do this by caring for the environment they inhabit.

FRANTOIO DI RIVA BOX

This box contains 6 bottles of extra virgin olive oil made exclusively by Frantoio di Riva from groves on the banks of lake Garda.

Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO green label x 3 bottles (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO organic white label x 1 bottle (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, 46°PARALLELO blue label x 1 bottle (50cl)
Frantoio di Riva, ULIVA Garda Trentino DOP x 1 bottle (50cl)

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Barocco & Tonnare – South East Sicily

As the heat swells from the south, blurring the view of the Med with the Sahara sand, we realise we are at more than 700m above sea level, crossing the Monti Iblei on our way to visit Frantoi Cutrera on a very hot summer’s day. The altitude is something the local olive cultivar, Tonda Iblea really seems to appreciate – it’s cold and often misty in the winter, while the summer heat swells the fruit and gives it a stupendous lusciousness and importantly, there is typically a big day to night temperature range and this preserves the aromas in the fruit.  All of this culminates in Primo, one of our benchmark oils from the Cutrera family.

Being at the heart of Sicilian olive oil production allows us to get an understanding of how geography has so profoundly shaped this, the biggest island in the Mediterranean. The highlands in the south east have huge crevices, where some of the jewels of baroque architecture have emerged – places like Ragusa and Modica, made famous by the recently deceased Sicilian author Camilleri’s most recognisable character, Montalbano. They emerge, unexpectedly, through the rock almost like a mirage, in all their grandeur, confounding the visitor, not expecting such wealth, after the harsh land surrounding it.

The coast is a far more gentile affair, with incredible cities, such as Siracusa and its magnificent island of Ortigia; Noto, another jewels of Baroque architecture, and going south, the charming old tonnare fishing towns, such as Marzamemi, from where they used to fish tuna, and then canned, jarred or air dried it, to be able to trade it across the distances. Now, they are alive with delicious restaurants, children chasing each other happily, music and beyond that, the intense and inviting sea.

As the productive landscape changes across Sicily, with the growing tourist economy and agriculture gaining sophistication, the juxtaposition of the old hard sea-life, as well as the harsh interior landscape with the magnificence and richness of the cities makes for a perennial contrast, and grows our admiration of this land. In the words of Camilleri: “Sicily has suffered 13 foreign dominations from which she has taken both the best and the worst. The sequence of different cultures has made Sicily a fascinating place, quite unlike any other.”

Places not to miss: Ortigia, Ragusa, Noto, Marzamemi, the beaches in the reserve of Vendicari

Places to eat: Ci Vulia, Avola; Liccamuciula, Marzamemi; La Loggia near Frantoi Cutrera; Il Veliero, Ortigia. 

If you want to visit Frantoi Cutrera to see how the best olive oil in Sicily is made, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to facilitate it.