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.
It is hard to believe that when I visited in late April to taste and source olive oil that the weather resembled late November… in the north of England … It was seriously wet. It felt as if it would never be dry. Water was everywhere. Rain on mown grass. Rain on warm stones. Rain on dry earth. When you live abroad, such aromas are nostalgic and evocative, transporting you to familiar home turf. It also struck me that 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. 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.