We have around 800 productive olive trees, and up to another 800 that need rescuing. Each year, around half the trees produce good crops, the next year the other half do the honours.
Some of our trees are over 250 years old, and the olive varieties we grow here can no longer be found anywhere else in Tuscany (we have even had the University of Pisa here taking cuttings). This gives our oil a truly unique character.
Last year (Nov 2010) the harvest was excellent, a bumper crop, with almost 900L as our final filtered production.
And it tastes superb! Slightly peppery, nutty, highly aromatic. Absolutely nothing like anything you will have tasted back home.
You would never think that such a harmless looking product could be so riddled with intrigue and rogues. Unfortunately, the olive oil industry is very loosley regulated (if at all). This means that in the race to get 'extra-virgin' olive oil out to the masses at prices that supermarkets demand, the big producers cut corners and bend the rules, and you are the one that gets short-changed.
I have been to one of the big local producers of olive oil, seen their facilities, and spoken frankly with one of their senior managers (off the record, of course). The truth is, these big 'producers' (and there are three that I know of in the area) don't produce any oil of their own (they are oil buyers), and cannot afford to buy oil from Tuscany for their 'Extra-virgin Tuscan Olive Oil'. So they buy tiny amounts of old stock from local farmers (so that they can say their oil 'contains' Tuscan oil) and the bulk of their oil comes from Greece, Morocco and Ethiopia. None the less, it is labelled and sold as 'Tuscan Extra-Virgin Olive Oil'.
And if you look at the numbers, you can see why. The price the frantoio pays local producers for their non-organic oil is between €6 and €9 per litre bulk . If you add a bottle, a label, the distributor margin, shipping, duty, and the supermarket 's margin, that means you could not possibly buy a litre of good oil for less than €20. And if you are buying from a delicatessen, that means you should be paying €30 or more in Europe, much more if you live further afield.
So if you are paying less than this, you are not getting what you think you are getting.
Put any good oil side by side with the best you can buy at home and you will see the difference (the colour of a good oil is a deep emerald green), smell the difference, and taste the difference.
So whatever you do, leave room in your baggage for some oil to take home. For goodness sake don't buy it from a supermarket, even in Italy (same problems I'm afraid).
Buy it from a good local Agritourismo (we can recommend several) or buy some of ours.
Our oil is 100% organic. We don't do anything to our trees except prune them and pick them. They are hand-picked and pressed at a local frantoio certified to handle organic produce, and the oil temperature never gets above 24°C (hence the 'cold-pressed' part, though this is now a little-used term). The oil is then micro-filtered to remove any water and surplus biological material which helps give the oil a longer life. Then we bottle it. That's all.
And it is fantastic. Ask us for a taste when you arrive.
Prices vary from year to year but we are selling the 2010 oil at:
We still have a small amout of 2009 oil left (still perfectly good, jut lost some of its bite) at 30% off.
And if you would like us to send oil on to you, let us know and we will sort that out for you. See the next page for more info.
"extra virgin" - the highest possible quality oil, with acidity below 0.3 (ours is usually way less than 0.1)
"cold pressed" - an old term that refers to the days when oil was 'pressed' from the fruit 'pasta' using a large mechanical press. These presses are still around, but not used much because they expose the oil to too much air. This oxidises those amazing phenols and anti-oxidants that make olive oil so good for you.
"first press" - again, an old term used to describe the oil produced by the first pressing using the mechanical presses. The pasta was then pressed again to produce a poorer quality oil.
Well, now you can. We have a limited number of spaces available for those who want to spend a week or two here picking olives in the autumn sun. You will be expected to work 5 days a week, and your board and lodging will free of charge. It's hard work (please don't come if you are not prepared to work hard), but fun. You're working in picture post-card surroundings, and I always lose several kilos in weight - perfect preparation for Christmas. If you are interested, please drop us a line.