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)

Want to Taste Wine in Tuscany?

Anyone planning to come to Tuscany on holiday and wishing to taste some great wine?

I could give you a list as long as my arm of wineries to visit where you will have an incredible experience (feel free to contact me for recommendations) but if you are looking for a more general experience, perhaps somewhere you can turn up early evening and sample a few different wines, then here are some of my favourites:

 

Vineria Aperta, Montalcino

Opened in 2023, this is a wonderful place to share great wines and drink in the landscape of the Val d’Orcia. Ranging from flights of Brunello to over a thousand other labels, their list is as broad as it is deep. The menu is also inventive whilst featuring authentic Tuscan ingredients.

@vineria_aperta_montalcino

 

Enoteca Savino, Torrita di Siena

This is a good stop if you are passing from northern to southern Tuscany via the A1. A great selection of wines even if the location is a little less evocative.

Via Traversa Valdichiana Est 181 a, 53049, Torrita di Siena (SI)

@savinoenoteca / www.savinowineshop.com

 

La Bottiglieria, Siena

Many great evenings start here. A dynamic, ever changing wine list, walkable from inside or outside the city walls and a brilliant selection of well-chosen aperitif plates.

Piazza del Sale 3, Siena

@bottiglieriasalefino

 

Enoteca Baldi, Panzano

If you are based up in Chianti, you must stop by and see @emilyohwine who will guide you through a brilliant selection of glasses with charm and knowledge.

Piazza Gastone Bucciarelli 25, Panzano in Chianti

@enotecabaldi

 

Le Volpi e L’Uva, Florence

This small space is a showcase for earnest, passionate growers and serves great charcuterie boards to accompany their predominantly Italian and French wine list. Worth a visit as it is a treasure trove of discovery!

Piazza dei Rossi 1r, Firenze

@levolpieluva

 

Fiaschetteria Nuvoli, Florence

An historic enoteca, well located in the centre of Florence, nestled behind the Duomo. This is not somewhere you will find new wave wines, it’s more about a classic Tuscan list. If you are lucky, there is an underground cantina that the owner may choose to show you. It’s not a glamorous location, but the focus is very much on the food and the wine.

Piazza dell’Olio 15, Firenze (near the Duomo)

#fiaschetterianuvoli

 

Da Alcide, Venturina

This truly lovely shop and restaurant is run by two sisters and firmly focused on great food and wine. It’s located near to the coast, about 15 minutes south of San Vincenzo / 15 minutes north of Follonica. I could get lost in here for hours.

Via Aurelia Sud, 41, 57021 Venturina, Campiglia M.Ma

www.da-alcide.com / @daalcide

 

 

Ancient and Iconic: A Brief History of Olive Farming in Puglia

The majestic grey green giants that dominate the Adriatic and Ionian coasts along the heel of Puglia are a vital part of the region’s identity dating back to at least 5,000BC. The first traces of olive consumption were discovered thanks to fossilized olive pips in neolithic rock during excavations of the Torre Canne.

By 2,500BC trading of Puglian olives became widespread in the Mediterranean basin thanks to the Phoenicians and Greeks and remnants of olives in Messapian tombs confirm they were offered as the food for the final journey, testifying to their spiritual and symbolic importance.

Between 266BC and 27BC, the Roman Republic expanded olive cultivation in Puglia, furthering the value of olive oil which was used as a medicine, food, fuel for light and in soaps and beauty products.  And following this, Puglian olive oil was supplied to the entire Roman Empire. During this era, to uproot an olive tree held the sentence of death.

During the Early Middle Ages (between around 400AD – 550AD) there was a notable decline in the distribution of olives due to inconveniently large containers that the market eventually rejected. But by the time of the Byzantine Empire, the industry and groves were restored and Puglian olive oil was traded once more thanks to the Venetian seafarers.

By the year 1,000AD, the Puglian olive oil trade had become very valuable once more with vast shipments leaving from the ports of Brindisi, Gallipoli, Otranto and Taranto destined for Venice, Tuscany, Genova and overseas to Russia, England and Germany.

Then in 1559AD, A Spanish Viceroy (Parafran de Rivera) ordered the construction of a road from Puglia to Naples, Calabria and Abruzzo to allow for faster transportation of the green gold.

Between 1590AD and 1680AD there was a cycle of lower temperatures that led to a large decline in olive production. The whole of Italy suffered hugely during this period of climate crisis as agriculture failed and famine set in. However, thankfully at the end of the century, the agricultural economy recovered and olive groves once again flourished in Puglia.

And so, for around 400 years, the olive oil industry in Puglia ran at a pace, dominated largely by local and industry specific politics, not all of which have been particularly admirable, not all of which have been particularly honourable. But yet, some very great families have navigated this road with deep care and true pride, committing themselves to their territory and to making the very best extra virgin olive oil imaginable from the noble Coratina and Ogliarola Barese cultivars in particular.

As you will no doubt be aware, sadly, the Xylella Fastidiosa bacteria was discovered in 2013 in olive trees near to Gallipoli. It has caused devastation and continues to spread through Puglian olive groves. In the past 10 years, many millions of trees have been threatened and over 7 million trees have died.  I don’t think we can even begin to understand how this effects the local community that is so intertwined with the cultivation of olives.  Government and EU funds are making their way to the region, but there is still a great deal of work, research and collaboration to be done. Assassin bugs may help to consume the bacteria if introduced on a large enough scale, or cultivars such as Leccino may be proving to be resistant to Xylella, efforts are certainly underway.

Logistics, packaging, climate, politics and disease have dramatized the past 7,000 years of olive cultivation in Puglia. But both the industry and its people have proved to be resilient time after time. Perhaps we should look back more often to help us move forwards.

 

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