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)

Frantoi - Frantoio

Your olive oil is being milled: what is actually happening?

The milling season is an incredibly intense period for the good people we work with – they tend to work an 18 hour day, seven days per week and for at least two months, ensuring the fruit is flawless, is taken quickly to the mill, and then transformed in to our favourite juice.  There are pitfalls all the way, and they have to be extremely careful at every stage.

In the groves so far the focus has been on the agriculture, but now it’s on the picking.   Our producers all pick green olives to guarantee the highest quality oil, but the phenolic ripeness needs to be there and this is a fine point, the optimum picking window is a matter of days.  Producers need to consider the weather carefully: you can’t pick if it’s raining (currently a big problem in the North of Italy), conversely warmer weather at this point in the year encourages the dreaded fly that damages the fruit. If the latter happens top quality producers will not use that fruit, because it makes rancid olive oil – all reasons why you need to know where your oil comes from. Lastly they need to consider the time it takes for olives to be picked and taken to the frantoio to be milled – ideally within 4 hours, never more than 8 hours, because otherwise the fruit starts to oxidise.  Considering a medium sized producer might have ten thousand trees, this is a very complex operation in terms of timing and health of the fruit, because what is actually happening in the mill is also crucial.

Before picking starts all machinery in the frantoio in checked, cleaned and tested to ensured it is ready to go.  When the olives arrive they are passed through the following processes, each of which has a different machine:

  1. De-leafing and washing
  2. Milling: This when olives (stones and skins and all) are actually crushed making a pulp.
  3. Malaxing: The paste is passed through a machine which slowly turns the pulp continuously  coaxing out droplets of oil from the cell membranes of the olives.
  4. Separating the various parts of the pulp: oil, water and solids.
  5. Filtering the oil.

During all these steps the miller can intervene to adjust the heat, pace and different filters, thus showing their skills and adding their magic to the final product.

As the various stages of processing are going on, new olives arrive from the groves, and the pickers start on new trees, and so it goes for about 2 to 3 months with only a few hours to rest each day.

We wish everyone we work with masses of strength, fine weather and good fortune for the exciting weeks ahead.

Cooking with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

It’s a common myth that it’s not a good idea to cook with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  We read about this almost daily and it frustrates us hugely, so that’s a good enough reason to dig up some facts for you.

 

With our busy lives, it’s easy to try to cook too quickly at high heats and this has a real risk that we will burn our food, particularly if you cook with gas.  However, the smoke point of EVOO is extremely high – we’ve tested this ourselves a number of times and for EVOO of the quality we work with, it always comes in around 207°C (405°F).  It would be very rare that you would exceed this temperature either roasting, sautéing, frying or baking, so you need not worry.

 

In addition to this however, the smoke point is not the only consideration, a further concern is the stability of the oil during cooking and research has shown that even oils such as avocado oil (with a very high smoke point) are less stable than EVOO when heated*. Dr Simon Poole recently stated in an interview with the Olive Oil Times: “This research provides unequivocal and definitive evidence that should finally dispel the myth.  It shows that extra virgin olive oil is not only safe during heating at regular cooking temperatures, but is the desirable cooking oil when compared with others.  The production of potentially harmful polar compounds and trans fats was markedly lower in EVOO.”

 

Also worth knowing, the antioxidant level in EVOO remains the highest of all oils during cooking and it has also been shown that it can improve the nutritional content of the ingredients you are cooking.

So don’t be afraid to use your EVOO liberally either raw or for cooking – you really can’t go wrong.

 

* Research conducted by the Modern Olives Laboratory Services, Australia  https://actascientific.com/ASNH/pdf/ASNH-02-0083.pdf

The Global Shortage of Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2018 was a small olive harvest in Italy as widely documented, with yields falling to a 25-year low and fears that the country may not be able to continuously supply demand until the 2019 harvest release.

 

The major contributing factors were heavy rains, a harsh and earlier winter as well as the on going battle against xylella fastidiosa, a pest born disease that has destroyed vast swathes of olive groves. In Puglia where 50 percent of Italian Olive Oil derives, production was down by 65 percent last autumn.  I don’t wish to make light of these issues, they are very real and they have already had a huge affect on local livelihoods.

From the consumer’s perspective this is also rather serious as market prices for generic Italian Olive Oil have risen by 31% this year, driven by the shortage and you will begin to see this reflected on the supermarket shelf shortly.

 

The major risk in a year such as this is that lesser quality oils or those that come from elsewhere will fill the demand.  And all the while, you will still find ‘Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil’ on the label.  Unfortunately, however much we wish this wouldn’t happen, it will.

 

This is why it’s even more important to know who has made your olive oil, to have a guarantee that it is extra virgin quality, to know the groves, know which olives are in each bottle, know the mill, know the family.  This year, a few of our producers informed us that there were oils they just weren’t able to make – their standards are so exceptionally high that if they don’t feel the quality will be there to put their name to it, they would rather just not produce it.  I find this incredibly reassuring in years such as this and I hope you do too.

 

We are a small business and we’re still working with small volumes, which means we get to pick the very best oils for you, even in challenging harvests such as 2018.  We taste extensively on your behalf and deal directly with the owner of each frantoio.  These guarantees are therefore personal and we believe that makes a real difference.

Last chance to order your 2018 Extra Virgin Olive Oil for delivery this year.

The harvest season is still underway in Italy and the presses are running around the clock for these intense few weeks. We’re delighted to be offering the 2018 harvest to you for this limited window of time so that you can receive the very freshest oils with the highest polyphenolic concentration in time for Christmas.

 

Orders can be made on line here until 4th December only.

I’ve tasted as widely as possible during these early weeks to get a view of the quality from different regions. The general overview is that the year has given more delicate, mineral oils than in the past three years. The quantities in the deep-south have been hit the hardest due to difficulties during the growing season, particularly the incredibly cold winter. Volumes here are down as much as 50-60% this year. This is bad news for large volume producers, who will have to seek supply from elsewhere… watch out for a potential drop in quality at the entry level.

For us however, we work with family owned business that completely control every drop of their oil and this gives us confidence year after year that they will only release oils that are of the very highest quality, that are true representations of their origin and the year in which they were made.

I can already tell you that Olivastra Seggianese from Frantoio Franci in Southern Tuscany is not being produced this year, the grove just didn’t give the fruit needed. Neither will S’Ciappau Gran Cru be made by Paolo Cassini in Liguria, whose yield has been severely reduced by a series of challenging weather fronts.

Each box of Extra Virgin Olive Oil has been carefully selected to give you an overview of the year and of different regions. Some boxes will offer oils that are more robust, others that are more delicate and others that suit different seasonal ingredients. We are also able to make bespoke boxes to order.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil at this level makes a wonderful luxurious, useful and healthy gift either to yourself or to your nearest and dearest.

CALABRIA: SOMETHING NEW TO FRANTOI

We are excited to tell you that we’ve started working with a new family, producing sublime oils from Calabria.

 

Located in the instep of Italy, deep south, warm and with an incredible influence from the nearby sea, Tenute Librandi is a 205 hectare estate, 154 of which are dedicated to their olive groves which are cared for impeccably. Near to the town of Vaccarizzo Albanese in the province of Cosenza, Calabria, this magnificent estate has been farmed organically for 20 years, which is an incredible feat and testament to the natural environment, but even more to the people who own and care for the land.  This family is amazing.  They have had the foresight to farm sustainably and protect their land for future generations.

 

Calabria is still blissfully off the beaten track, full of original features.  It is a natural home for olives with 19% of total Italian cultivation in the region, a large proportion of which is farmed organically.  Calabria is surprisingly hilly, sandwiched between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas, it benefits from the sea breeze, which mitigates the heat and keeps the groves in perfect health without the need of chemical treatments.  Much of the farming is a patchwork of diverse produce but Librandi stands out for its exclusive focus on olive and citrus trees, they make fabulous marmalade as well.

 

The estate was founded in the 70s by Pasquale Librandi, who passed on his knowledge, philosophy and passion of olive cultivation to his five children: Pino, Carmela, Lucia, Angela and Michele. In 2012 the estate became theirs and they continue to work with profound dedication, each sibling specialising in a different area of the business but all with a common interest.  They have brought dynamism to the estate along with innovative ways of working to meet the traditions of their Father.

 

We have selected four of their oils for you: the Appena Franto (just pressed) is the first release off the blocks in November and a herbaceous, vibrant and spicy blend of the indigenous cultivars Nocellara, Biancolilla and Giarraffa.  Dradista is a blend of Coratina, Carolea and Nocellara featuring artichoke and chicory in abundance with a good decisive kick and high polyphenol count.  There are also two monocultivars: Carolea, which has a more delicate character and Nocellara del Belice which is peppery and extremely good for you.