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)

ETRUSCAN MAREMMA

The Etruscans once ruled over a very large portion of Italy, south of Naples all the way up to Padova, but the area between modern day Northern Lazio and Southern Tuscany was their heartland, know today as Etruscan Maremma.  Today the area that surrounds Monte Amiata (Frantoi Franci lies on the western slopes of this former volcano) is dotted with Etruscan sites and tombs, natural beauty, hot springs and towns that feel as ancient as the old faces that inhabit this scarcely populated area.

The history of this land is clearly defined by its most distinctive geological feature: tufa, a porous limestone rock, that has allowed carving of sites and hills, both by humans and rivers to make ravines, towns dotted with caves where not that long ago people lived with their animals, underground paths and many amazing architectural features.

The Etruscans were traders, making and selling their wine and olive oil, just like today.  Indeed as you pass by the small towns there is a sense that people have been doing this for centuries… millennia even.  This atmosphere of foreverness is transmitted to you whilst bathing in the wild hot pools in Saturnia (there are also excellent spa hotels too, for the less adventurous), while walking in Via Cave – ancient paths carved in the tufa which connect towns alive and dead – and looking at the dramatic hill-top towns like Pitigliano or Civita di Bagnoreggio further South.

The autumn is perhaps a perfect time to visit this corner of Italy: the food is rich and abundant, the colours of the trees and vineyards vibrant, and olives are being picked and rushed to the local frantoi to be pressed, and the chill in the air makes for a perfect splash in the thermal waters. Autumn is also the time of the year when the mind drifts more towards magic, which is very appropriate for Maremma in the fall.

TRAVELLING AGAIN. A MULTITUDE OF DIFFERENCE

One of the greatest freedoms in life is to be able to cross borders, experience and live within different cultures and surround ourselves by a multitude of difference. It expands our senses, our sentiments and our capacity to appreciate diversity in an unbound manner.

 

One of my professional fears moving to Italy 8 years ago was that I would develop a mono-palate. Having worked with wine for all of my career, I was fortunate to have been based in London with access to the greatest range and diversity of wine imaginable. On moving to Tuscany, I was fearful that my palate would become so finely tuned to Sangiovese that I would end up evaluating all other wines on a skewed scale, or worse to lose the ability to judge them correctly. Travel has always helped keep this fear at bay however.

 

A certain insularity, focusing in on the short-range of vision due to the lack of exposure to difference over the past 18 months has manifested itself within many of us, perhaps subconsciously but it’s there. Just walking the streets in a different country allows you to tune in with the sentiment, to understand something you might not have done yesterday. It allows us to taste different flavours, feel different about ourselves in our surroundings.

 

It’s time to look out again, to notice difference and to embrace diversity that we can find both near and far. That is really worth celebrating.

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