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)

The Queen of Truffles: Meera Cortese

Your journey into the world of truffles is fascinating from what I know!  Please can you tell us a little bit about it?
Well, I worked my way up the ladder in private banking for a number of years, but when I had children I realised that I had to find something that I could fit around them a bit more.
Having married into an Italian family, I became intrigued with the incredible truffles my father-in-law would source and gradually I persuaded him to teach me all he knew. His suppliers became my suppliers and in around 2005 I began reaching out to some of the chefs and restaurants who I knew would appreciate the quality of the truffles I’d sourced. The rest, as they say, is history!

What can you tell us about the 2021 season for white truffles?  How are they looking?
It’s been a super challenging year. Really good white truffles have been very scarce due to quite unusual weather conditions. This means that prices have rocketed. In my 16 years of dealing I’ve never known prices to soar this much.
I’m managing to find great truffles through my amazing hunters in Umbria, but they come at a price.

Without giving away all of your trade secrets, are there any tell-tale signs for how to pick a great truffle?
There isn’t really a trade secret. It’s about instinct… the smell needs to be earthy and rich but not too unbearably pungent that it’s off-putting. The touch should be firm but not too hard. And I’d say that a truffle that ‘looks’ good isn’t always the best. Don’t dismiss the ugly ones.

If someone is buying a truffle from you for the first time, how would you suggest they serve it?
For me, a simple and absolutely delicious way to serve white truffle is thinly shaved over scrambled eggs. But my absolute favourite would have to be with a well made champagne risotto. A black truffle is divine grated into the filling of a  cheese toastie.

The list of top restaurants you supply in London is incredible.  Are you also supplying private individuals in London?
Yes, increasingly. It’s mainly due to word of mouth. Friends and clients like Ruth Rogers [of the River Café], and others, are kind enough to recommend me to their friends so it’s been a bit like Chinese whispers.

What’s your view on pairing truffle with olive oil in place of butter?
For black truffle I think that olive oil can work beautifully. For white truffle I’d say butter is best.

What are your observations about how truffles are adapting to climate change?
I’d say it’s clearly having an effect, as this challenging season has proved. It hasn’t rained enough, and I can only put that down to climate change. Also, when it’s too warm the truffles dry out. Neither situation is good. But where there’s a will, to find the best truffles, there’s a way!

 

Meera can be contacted via Instagram @meeracortesi

Jono Nussbaum

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Painting Flavour: Letitia Ann Clark

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The Storyteller: Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Maine native food-writer Nancy Harmon Jenkins, is one of America’s foremost experts on extra virgin olive oil. She’s written many cookbooks on Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, born from her experiences living in Lebanon and Italy. READ MORE

The Rockstar: Fil Bucchino

Fil Bucchino is a Florence born – Toronto bred punk musician turned olive oil taster, producer & ambassador.  His latest venture is a documentary, Obsessed with Olive Oil, which goes behind the scenes of the rebirth of quality olive oil production and the lengths Olive Oil professionals will go through to make that perfect product.  The film is currently doing the festival circuits around the world, so keep an eye out for it.

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