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)

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Modena’s Gold

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is an ancient condiment that was used as far back as Roman times and has little more than the name in common with the Balsamic Vinegar found on the table of Italian restaurants around the world.

There are very stringent rules surrounding the production of ‘Traditional Balsamic Vinegar’, rules that are far more lax for the production of commercial Balsamic Vinegar, and it all starts from the must. Must is essentially the freshly crushed juice of grapes (Trebbiano and Lambrusco in this case), including skins, stems and all. Must was widely used as a sweetener in roman and pre-roman times (sugarcane wasn’t traded before the 1500s), and was also used as the base ingredient to transform mustard seeds in to mustard. In the region around Modena the art of ageing and concentrating became the precursor to what is now Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. Like mustard (and there are wonderful fruit based mustards in the north of Italy), it is used as an accompaniment to festive foods, such as bollito (boiled meats, often eaten at Christmas and other celebrations). It was (and is, given the cost) something to be taken out of the attic to mark a special occasion.

Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is made by fermenting the cooked grape must in wooden barrels. 8 different types of wood can be used, but it’s obligatory to use 5 different ones (presumably because this enhances the complexity). These barrels live in a dry section of the house – the attic – rather than the humid cellar. And unlike most wines, oxygenation is encouraged during fermentation and the process of must concentration. Aged for a minimum of either 12 or 25 years (depending on the quality), the must is moved from bigger to smaller barrels, absorbing the qualities of the different types of wood over time. At a recent tasting of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar at Acetaia Valeri, we tasted one that was finished in juniper wood, giving a incredible contrast between the sweetness of the must and the high notes of juniper, something that would have been wonderful as an accompaniment to game. The different styles lend themselves to different food matches and it’s all down to the inventiveness of the maestro acetaio.

So highly was it valued (and still is) in the Modena region that families would give a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar set (barrels and all) as part of the dowry. It remained a very local tradition and an important contributor to peasant livelihoods in the area for centuries, until in the 70s and 80s, when the phenomena grew beyond its borders and the commercially available styles were made for much less and in far greater quantities. Aceto Balsamico Tradizione was like wine, cheese, cured ham and vegetables, just another product that a farm or small-holding would make, generation after generation across the centuries – millennia even.