Mountains and water: the two defining influences on the climate of lake Garda. Riva del Garda lies at the northern tip of the lake and is sheltered from the weather that seeps down the foothills of the Alps, it is impressively beautiful. The vast lake (Italy’s largest) moderates winter temperatures and as such, despite its northerly location on the 46th parallel, the climate and subsequent vegetation are typically Mediterranean. Capers, citrus fruits, grapes and olives are well at home.
I travel a fair bit in the North of Italy and always try to stop by at Frantoio di Riva because I adore the team and their approach to olive oil – there is always something to learn. On almost every occasion however, there are lingering rain clouds, hugely evocative as they move moodily over the mountains and blanket the banks of the lake. The senses liven with water all around you. Scents of rain on mown grass. Rain on warm stones. Rain on dry earth. And interestingly, these same aromas are remarkably representative of the olive cultivar Casaliva.
In its purest and highest quality expression, Casaliva features cut grass, wild hedgerow herbs such as chicory and dandelion, minerality and a very slight hint of citrus. This is cool climate extra virgin olive oil. Best suited to dress salads, especially lettuce based and also a fabulous condiment to fresh water fish or rice based dishes.. It does not feature the spice or bite of cultivars typically found further south, comparatively it is milder, with a lighter body weight and great purity.
The team at Frantoio di Riva stands out for their technical approach to making oil (every single atom is analysed and evaluated) and for their exemplary attitude towards sustainability. Not only do they produce organic olive oil, but they take care to prevent any waste – the nocciolino (olive stone) is used as fuel to heat water or sold to local residents to heat their houses, the skins are used for a wide selection of innovative olive products and even the water is purified and separated so that it can be re-used rather than wasted. This is the way we all need to be thinking; the Riva team are just ahead of the curve.