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)

Travel in Puglia frantoi.org

NORTH AND CENTRAL PUGLIA

Our first visit to Puglia for Olive Oil purposes took place at Easter, a wonderful time of the year to travel in Italy – not too hot and an opportunity to take in the wonders of the local culture and seasonal rituals.

I’m always surprised to read people comparing Puglia to Tuscany – they are not that alike in my mind, the landscape in particular skirted by the beautiful crystalline blue sea is remarkably different, so much warmer, wilder, more southern feeling: giant fennel by the roadsides, white-washed villas and of course the unmistakable trulli scattering the countryside.  And everywhere you look you see olive trees.  Thanks to the climate it is the perfect natural home for fruit and vegetables – one massive ‘orto’ and the produce from spring onwards really is jammed full of flavour and goodness and this is reflected throughout the cuisine.

 We were based firstly in the elegant seaside town of Trani a fabulous base from which to explore the Northern stretch of Puglia. North of Bari, perhaps people flying in to the region wouldn’t think to venture up this far but they would be missing an important part of the region.  Seafood is off the scale (particularly this early in the season when the water is still cool) and the charm and elegance of the region meet in the crooked alleyways and hidden piazzas.

Exploring the Barese triangle for us was a great treat – this is serious Olive Oil country as the plateau stretches away from the port of Bari.  Here the Ogliarola and Coratina cultivars are very much at home and produce decisive, generous oils that perfectly accompany the diverse vegetables of the region as well as the delicious seafood.  Amongst the many visits we made to family owned Olive Oil producers, we had the pleasure of meeting Marina de Carlo and fell head over heals for their oils, respect for tradition and attitude to quality.  It wasn’t that we didn’t find other great oils, we really did, but when we saw the commitment of the De Carlo family who has been tending their groves and making the very best olive oil since 1600 we just felt they were different.  And we are here to support their guarantee of provenance and quality.

 To explore the central part of Puglia, we chose to stay at a masseria not far from Ostuni.  Of course Ostuni and Alberobello are essential stops on the tourist trail but we actually enjoyed Cisternino more, it was less obvious and we felt there was a more artisanal approach to life in general.

You would be forgiven for thinking that much of Italy still has its heart and soul in the Renaissance, so much of life here looks backwards fondly.  Puglia struck us as a region however with an inspiring eye on the future.  Young people have obviously travelled, studied and imbibed elsewhere and now returned full of energy to make this fantastic part of the world somewhere you want to visit again and again.  There is a great, seasonal-centric food scene run by dynamic, innovative young locals.  It’s worth a visit for anyone passionate about the Mediterranean diet.

We recommend:

Masseria Salinola  

Trattoria Il Cortiletto, Speziale di Fasano (BR)   

Giardini 36, Cisternino