Liguria, home of the Taggiasca olive, cultivated largely on incredibly steep slopes that stretch up from the coast towards the Alps. The landscape is arresting – a backdrop of striped hillsides, layered with tiny terraces on which you find Olive trees and a selection of other fruits, herbs and vegetables. It is a patchwork of small-holdings. There is just enough influence of France in the local culture, but the cuisine is largely Italian and Olive Oil rather than butter is the norm.
Amazingly, less than 1% of Italian Olive Oil is produced here, which is surprising when you think that this is where Pesto comes from. It appears that many farmers have opted for the more lucrative option of selling their Taggiasca olives to be eaten (in salamoia) rather than making oil. Sadly, it rather feels as if olive oil production is a fading art in these parts. Then you come across Paolo Cassini.
Paolo and his family live and work just outside Isolabona, around 15km from the coast right up by the French border. Like his father and grandfather, Paolo has committed his life to making the very best extra virgin olive oil possible, solely from the Taggiasca cultivar. He believes firmly that the results begin in the grove, he is highly acclaimed for his pruning skills and takes care of his trees as if they were children. He owns 1,300 trees and cares for each one personally. His frantoio, originally built by his father in 1962 has been constantly upgraded and is impeccable. I can’t tell you how impressed I am by the Cassini family’s dedication and attention to detail. It is a small business, everything is done by hand and we feel extremely proud to work with them.
The Taggiasca cultivar is a small, sweet olive and at its best produces an elegant, mild and more delicate style of extra virgin olive oil. If you don’t want too much spice in your oil, then this is certainly for you and that is why it’s a great choice for children who generally opt for more delicate flavours. That said, because of the way that Paolo works, you can expect high polyphenols in both oils. They make a great pair for fish, steamed vegetables, white meat and are brilliant for salsa, pesto and mayonnaise.
Paolo makes just two olive oils of 100% Taggiasca and each year, he is recognised with a plethora of awards.