Our journey in to serious, pure, highest quality extra virgin olive oil began at Marco Viola’s door. It was 2001 and we were spending a few days travelling around Umbria where we had come across Viola olive oil in a restaurant in Montefiascone, both Kasimir and I were blown away by the quality and intensity – it was unlike anything we had ever tasted before. So, we decided to take a detour and find out where Viola came from. We arrived at the unassuming frantoio in S. Eraclio di Foligno and knocked on the door, clearly waking somebody up from a post-prandial snooze. We scrambled together all the Lire we had and bought two bottles of Viola. We then spent the next 15 years seeking olive oil of a similar quality, but never found anything as good.
Marco Viola is the pinnacle of precision, honesty, generosity and fairness. These are qualities that are sadly hard to come by in the shady undergrowth of the world of olive oil. His attention to detail and commitment to producing the finest extra virgin olive oil, from his land in Umbria is unparalleled. He is incredibly proud to call himself a farmer and he loves his land, which is why he farms organically.
Surprisingly, only 2% of Italian Olive oil is produced in Umbria. The climate is moderately mild for central Italy, fairly windy and quite damp thanks to nearby Lake Trasimeno. This part of the world is beautifully verdant. The Viola family have been crafting olive oil for 150 years and built their first mill in 1917 in S. Eraclio. The terrain is poor, chalky and very stony with steep slopes reaching up to 500m above sea level – it is not easy land to farm. They harvest only green olives to ensure a greater concentration of flavour and higher polyphenolic concentration.
Cultivars include Moraiolo, Frantoio and Leccino: the classics. And the flavour profile throughout the oils is highly elegant and exceptionally well-balanced perfect to add to soups, pasta dishes, grilled meats and a wide range of vegetables both cooked and raw. If you select the monocultivar Moraiolo (Il Sincero), expect intense artichoke and green bean aromas, the monocultivar Frantoio (Inprivio) features leaner notes of cut grass and green almonds so would be a good choice for fish lovers.
It is hard to think we will ever find oils that satisfy us as much as these – they are exceptional in every sense.