Montenero d’Orcia is a tiny hilltop hamlet in Southern Tuscany in the foothills of beautiful and arresting Mt. Amiata. This is the home of Frantoio Franci, founded in 1958 by Franco and Fernando Franci when they purchased the Villa Magra property and converted the old barn in to a mill. Fernando is still very present in the business and greets me personally each time I visit – you can see how much this family cares about their business. Since 1995, Giorgio Franci has been leading the company forwards and it is his art that attracted us most to the olive oils of Frantoio Franci. Giorgio is without doubt one of the most acclaimed names in Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the World. He is an incredibly skilled blender and is thoroughly committed to making high quality olive oil and to raising the top end of this industry to success.
We lived in Montalcino for a couple of years and were fortunate enough to get to know Giorgio Franci’s oils during that time. They are majestic in style, with all of the Tuscan characteristics you would expect: medium to highly fruity, complex, fabulously bitter, perfect companions to pork and beef in particular as well as a wide range of soups, pulses, savoury cakes, porcini mushrooms and of course pasta and grains.
The Franci family farm 65ha of Olive groves around Montenero and this includes 5 different cultivars. Frantoio, a high vigour cultivar that has a fairly low oil yield and gives an elegant, balanced, bitter and spicy oil. Moraiolo, a low vigour, incredibly limited volume cultivar that is resistant to detach from the tree and very sensitive to the cold. It gives a bitter, spicy olive oil rich in antioxidants and polyphenols. Leccino, which has high resistance to disease and a fresher, lightly fruity and slightly herbaceous character. Olivastra Seggianese, a local cultivar that features rose petal, exotic spice and has a fragrant balsamic finish. And finally Correggiolo originating from the area around Florence, which ripens late and gives a decisive peppery, elegant and complex character with a rich spicy finish.
Olive Oil seems such a way of life in Tuscany, everybody seems to have a family member or friend who produces their own and of course they therefore feel this is the absolute best. Amazing then to think that just 3% of total Italian Olive Oil production comes from this region. We have tasted widely – and the general level from Tuscany is high, however there are few producers of total excellence and at the very top of this in terms of style and philosophy is Franci. If you choose these oils, you know you are getting the real deal.