CULTIVAR

 

There are around 800 different Olive Cultivars in Italy alone, many of which are used for Olive Oil. Similarly to grape varieties in wine, the Olive cultivar influences the flavour profile of your oil.  Different cultivars, depending on size of fruit, thickness of the skin, composition of the pulp can produce different yields, varying concentrations of anti-oxidants and overall different quality levels.

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)

Autumn Leaves

Living in Italy we eat very seasonally: it’s taken us a while to fully get used to the fact that you just can’t eat tomatoes in the winter or broccoli in the summer, but because of this, when the season changes we look forward to the arrival of new flavours hugely. Naturally the most highly anticipated autumn ingredient is new season freshly pressed olio nuovo, which brings life to the pumpkin, cavolo nero, root vegetables and mushrooms that we are currently enjoying.

Our relocation from the 24/7 society, always on, buy what what you want when you want has been an interesting experience which has forced us to really understand the seasons, what we like to eat, and the changing climate.  Oranges and citruses for examples are fruit we have grown accustomed to assume are always there. But since our friends at Tenute Librandi sent us a case of just picked Calabrian oranges, the experience of the taste remained with us, and now we know we have to patiently wait for the winter to appreciate really good oranges.

So we transition from summer, where tomatoes, zucchini, peaches and melon seem to colour all our dishes, to the rougher, rustic flavours of the autumn.  As we witness our climate change dramatically fast, and see our friends who grow olives and grapes having to continually adjust to the effects of this change, maybe it is our responsibility to be less demanding of our planet and continue to understand and appreciate seasonality.

The Tomato

We are thankfully in the heart of Tomato season.  A moment that should not be underestimated in terms of how wonderful it can be.  I feel as if many of us have become used to eating tomatoes all year round and there’s something fundamentally wrong about this.  Not least because of the flavour, but also importantly because of what a true seasonally ripe tomato can give you.

 

Tomatoes are a major source of the antioxidant lycopene found in highest concentration in the skin of red ripe tomatoes (great for your heart health, thought to have an impact on prevention of abnormal cell growth and shown to protect against sunburn) as well as being a great source of vitamin C (an essential antioxidant – an average sized tomato provides around 25% of your RDI), vitamin K (great for bone health and blood clotting), potassium (good for your blood pressure) and folate (which is vitamin B9 – really good for normal tissue growth and therefore particularly good during pregnancy).

 

It’s near impossible to pick our favourite recipes with Tomatoes, but here are three that we are enjoying almost weekly at the moment!

 

Panzanella

Bulgur with tomato, aubergine and preserved lemon yoghurt

Caponata

And very soon, sugo for the winter

Frantoi packaging

You’ve received your 2018 harvest release, now what should you be doing with it?

When you have something special in your larder, there’s something inherent in many of us that wishes to savour it, to use it sparingly.  I must say that this approach to life is something I cherish and value highly.  It’s something that reminds me of my grandparents; of times gone by when we all knew that we should indeed value fine things, treat them with care.  Great Olive Oil however is an ingredient that requires you to re-evaluate this approach somewhat.

 

New season olive oil is packed full of bright, invigorating flavours and importantly, higher concentrations of polyphenols.  Consumed in the first few months of their life and especially over these winter months, your oils are incredibly good for you.  There is now a huge amount of press supporting the impressive health benefits of top quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but few communicate how supremely good it is for you if you consume it when it’s in its first flush of youth.

 

Those who think of Olive Oil as a salad dressing only will find they tend to consume less during the winter months as our diet leans more towards warmer flavours, roasted and slow cooked dishes, soups and heartier ingredients.   However, now is the moment to make the most of them!

 

Nature, as usual, guides us brilliantly. The oils that tend to have the highest antioxidant values have more decisive flavours and therefore pair brilliantly with the earthier, rustic winter larder: root vegetables, grains, roasts, cruciferous vegetables, chicories, citrus, hardy herbs.  And this coincides perfectly with the fact that we need more to sustain us through the colder months.  Olive Oil can help you here, so let it.

 

To fully appreciate your oils, we recommend you try them on lightly toasted bread to begin with – my dream is to hear you all had a bruschetta party this January.  This will give you a real sense of their flavour profile and you will then see which other ingredients will pair best with each oil.  Then begin experimenting!  As an incredibly rough guide:  try central Italian (Tuscany/Umbria/Marche) oils over soups, pulses, red meats and grains; with fresh water fish, white meat, potatoes, salads and salsas, keep to the North of Italy (Liguria/Garda); Over steamed or roasted vegetables look South to Puglia/Calabria where the oils make the best butter substitute; With seafood and raw or rare-cooked ingredients head to Sicily/Calabria for their aromatic complexity.

 

Above all, please enjoy your oils, use them generously to get the greatest benefit and please feel free to contact us if you would like any recommendations, serving suggestions or advice.

IN SEASON: 2018 HARVEST

We are on the verge of the 2018 harvest here in Italy.  It’s the moment of truth as our producers are starting up their mills to ensure they are in perfect working order to receive the first fruit.  As those of you who follow us closely will know, we always select oils that derive from green olives so our harvest begins ahead of many.  This means far lower volumes, but in terms of quality, there is no comparison.

 

The 2018 season in Italy is looking very positive from where we are sitting.  I don’t say this lightly, it hasn’t been a simple growing season, the big freeze in February had a significant impact and some trees just haven’t born fruit as a result.  There is also the constant risk of the wretched olive fly, which is possible to combat with certain organic treatments but they are costly, so only the very best producers (yes, of course ours!) go to these lengths.

 

We had a long, wet winter and spring and this was important for the ground water levels and as such, the trees that have born fruit are laden.  The craftsmen we work with up and down Italy remain cautious however, it all depends on the next crucial weeks and until the olives are running through the mill, we won’t have the complete picture.

 

We wish the pickers and millers every success for the days, weeks and months of incredibly hard work ahead.  Waiting for those first divine tastes.

THE SEASON SO FAR…

Italy has had a proper winter this year.  Finally un bello freddo to allow the olive trees to fully shut down and rest after the growing season and harvest.  And it’s fair to say we really needed that because the super cold also has an important sterilising effect, protecting the trees from pests and diseases.  Snowmen were built, even in Sicily, and this was followed by an impressive amount of rain throughout the country.  All good: we have had a few dry years and the ground reserves really needed replenishing.
What is unusual however is that we haven’t really seen much of a spring, we had a glimpse of it in April but May has been incredibly wet and really rather cool by Italian standards as a lethargic front hovers over Southern Europe.  The sheer quantity of water has lead to an abundance of growth, the flowers this year are sensational and pastures are a forager’s dream.  The dampness however does come with obvious risks – our growers have to pay incredible attention to their groves to ensure diseases don’t take hold.  It’s another huge benefit to be working with producers who own their olive trees: they are fully in control of the quality throughout the growing season.
It strikes me that it’s quite impossible to see patterns in our weather any more (maybe it’s always been like that, but perhaps I didn’t see it this way before).  No two years seem to be the same.  The wine trade has a habit of comparing vintages to each other to give an indication of where the quality might land, with a year like 2018 it is still too early to call it.  Early indications are extremely positive but everything is still to play for over the summer months.