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)

The Road Less Travelled: Alto Modigliana

Alto Modigliana, located in Emilia Romagna, less than an hour south east of Bologna, is largely off the tourist trail and is stunningly beautiful with verdant valleys and beautifully unpolluted craggy panoramas.  It seems a world away from the rich Emiliana plains that lie to the north and the polished landscapes of Tuscany to the south – it feels refreshing to arrive somewhere less manicured, wilder and somehow less sure of itself.  I came here to understand more about Sangiovese, having stumbled upon the wines of Mutiliana this time last year.  The notes from my first tasting should be preserved: they are bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Convinced I’ve discovered something truly great, memorable and off the beaten track, I describe the encounter with their mastermind, Giorgio Melandri (@giorgiomelandri) in detail, who is an intrinsic part of these wines, this territory and this story.

As Alto Modigliana borders Tuscany, it’s no surprise that Sangiovese has the capacity to be well at home here.  Emilia Romagna as a region however has an even deeper and richer food culture than it’s neighbours – it actually knocks the socks off most other regional Italian cuisines.  It won’t be a surprise to any of our readers that this is the home of ragu, of Parmiggiano Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, balsamic vinegar and tortellini but if you don’t happen to live in Italy, I just can’t describe to you how much you need to visit this region for its food: it exceeds all expectations, and I say that very rarely.

Modigliana itself is full of medieval charm, palaces and an impressive fortress.  Today leather is an important trade and there are some great craftsmen offering their wares.  The town has a handful of characterful, un-fussy places to sample the local delicacies.  I can’t recommend highly enough Antichi Sapori, a fresh pasta laboratory/shop that also serves lunch if you arrive at the right time. (Via Don G. Verita’ 33, Modigliana. T. +39 0546 94 16 47).  For a more rural restaurant, again totally unpretentious and with a relaxed family feel, try Trattoria Manueli with its classic Romagnola menu that changes seasonally and zero km policy for meat.

For Giorgio Melandri, Alto Modigliana is his land, his heritage, it’s where he walks the dog, grows olives, spends time with his family and because he’s a brilliant observer, he has understood the land perfectly.  Giorgio is curious by nature and has travelled and tasted widely and as a consequence of this he is able to challenge his observations, interpret the territory, pay homage to the soil and allow his wines to be themselves.  As well as writing about wine, Giorgio has for many years contributed to the Gambero Rosso guide to Olive Oil and I’m absolutely thrilled that he has introduced us to Gianluca Tumidei, who is a local EVOO Master.  Watch this space.

Giorgio knows this land like nobody else, I would wish for a guide such as him to every unknown region in Italy.  He has opened my eyes and tastebuds.