American in Italy, culture, food, history, italy, nature, tips, travel, tuscany, Uncategorized

Olive oil in Tuscany, how ‘green gold’ is made

stefanocasati-7960

Photo by Stefano Casati

The making of olive oil in Tuscany is an almost sacred process and I had the chance to be up close and center last week to see how Tuscany’s “green-gold” is actually made in a completely organic agricultural estate. This was after my absolutely delightful tour of Villa di Maiano – the historical villa featured in films such as “Room with a View” and “Tea with Mussolini,” which for this girl was a huge bonus. I absolutely adore  epic movies set in Italy. I took full advantage of knowing I was in the same setting as some of my favorite actors and might have even twirled a time or two. 😉

olive oil tuscany

The Fattoria or “farm” is still very much a working farm with origins that date back to the 15th century and covers about 300 hectares with 20,000 olive trees. That is a lot of trees. The olives themselves are picked by hand during November and December during olive-oil season. In fact, many friend with olive oil orchards organize “picking parties” during November to pick olives all together, by no means an easy or non-strenuous task.

The olive oil produced at the factory I toured  is called Laudemio di Fattoria di Maiano. Laudemio is actually the name of the trademark, olive-oil producers in Tuscany formed a consortium with very strict rules governing the process of the oil as to protect their heritage, a very Italian action. The easiest way to think of it is to imagine the oil being the equivalent of  a bottle of Chianti Classico (DOC) . This particular factory only produces enough oil at the moment of sale, to ensure the freshness of the product.You can read more about Laudemio here.

Unfortunately as I sort of already guessed, not all olive oil producers in Italy are 100% honest with how they process their oil and end up muddying the term “extra-virgin”. It is very worth it to ask around and see if you can buy your olive-oil directly from the source.  Sometimes when I go back home and browse the local supermarket in Texas, I am really shocked at what they dare call “extra virgin olive oil. Most of the time it looks less some cheap soybean version with the color and consistency of urine. Yummy

laudemio olive oil

Photos by Stefano Casati

They showed around the noisy processing plant and led us to a room to try the oil, which of course was situated in a beautiful viewing room with gorgeous panoramas of the sunset. YES! We crowded around to scrub our bruschetta with fresh cloves of garlic but not before taking the time to really smell and experience the oil. The color a bright green, the smell a vegetal odor I can only describe as earthy. I tasted a little of the oil by itself and it tingled, a sharp flavor – rich in texture and very tasty. It took me about eight garlic-scrubbed &  topped with oil bruschetta and a little salt before I could call it a day.

It made me think about how happy I am when t-mans mom brings us over a bottle of ‘new oil’ fresh and fragrant that we can fight over {real love is when you stop playing nice and start getting REAL posessive with your food}. That paired with a glass of vino novella (new wine), roasted chestnuts and zuppa di zucca (pumpkin soup) and you will thank the Tuscan gods for providing us with what can only be described as treasure. I know I talk about food as if I am in love, but well when it’s this good… it really kinda is. Don’t even get me started on my love of castagnaccio or traditional Tuscany ‘chestnut cake”. 

Fattoria di Maiano offers tastings, an olive mill tour (like I did), tours of the adjacent Villa that I blogged about previously and even ‘safari night tours) all of which you can check out here. We also happened to see a baby donkey at the fattoria  just born the night before and named “tempesta” {storm in Italian}, since the night was indeed very stormy.

I have a love for donkeys that you would not believe – and to see one just born, fluffy and curious was the icing on my cake! A perfect end to a blog post, with the baby donkey “tempesta”. Such a cutie and just as “new” as the fresh olive-oil we tasted, how fitting..

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0 Comment

  1. MerlinScotland
    04.12.2012 at 10:33

    There’s also another problem for the olive oil. Due to the fact oil production can’t be the same every year (because of pests, adverse weather, etc.), few farmers buy olives abroad (like in Romania) and they add them to theirs. Despite this is something they can be persecuted for (because they break the DOC and DOCG rules), some of them keep doing it every year. As you advise in your post, it’s better if you actually know the farmer or know if he’s a honest chap and buy the oil from him. That’s what my mum did in the last 40 years. You were speaking about Texas, I live in UK and some olive oil tastes as vegetable oil! I still ask my mum to send me some each year after they harvest the olives in Tuscany 🙂

    1. ggnitaly84
      04.12.2012 at 11:10

      very very true! The olive oil I see back ‘home’ is really the consistency of vegetable oil, not at all of the actual good stuff as we call it. Most of the farms like this one are really trying to produce goodquality stuff and invite people to see how it’s made which is a huge plus for me. If you know where your food is coming from {and yes, oil is ‘food’} than your likely to value it more 😉

  2. Tiana Kai (@TianaKaiMiami)
    04.12.2012 at 11:40

    How much for that over sized Laudemio bottle? I would love it for Christmas… hint hint. 😉

    1. ggnitaly84
      04.12.2012 at 12:55

      I would email them, I think the big bottle is 16 euros http://www.fattoriadimaiano.com/en/teaching-farm.php.

  3. asterisk
    04.12.2012 at 13:30

    We stayed at a small yet gorgeous B&B in the Tuscan township of “Gaiole in Chianti”. The owner was so kind and helpful but to top it all off he gave us a bottle of his home-grown olive oil. Pure liquid gold! Kim*

    http://www.travelphotographyblog.wordpress.com/2011/12/21/cavarchino-bb/

    1. ggnitaly84
      04.12.2012 at 13:31

      nice! the breakfast looked amazing!

  4. Gil
    08.12.2012 at 2:10

    Thanks for such an interesting post. We’ve never been in Italy when the olives were ripe and thus have missed the making of olive oil.

    1. ggnitaly84
      08.12.2012 at 10:57

      thanks gil!