The vintage that olive growers and millers have just faced (and not yet finished) is one of the toughest in recent years, comparable to the sadly famous one of 2014. It was a tough crop campaign: only those who worked really hard and immediately in the field and that were able to draw on the right agronomic experiences saved it.
Waiting for Coratina
There were also lucky corners, but they were a few and above all casual, at least in the Center-North. Now there are some expectations for some esoteric aspects of coratin, the least affected by the fruit fly and other evils, which could give some fat to companies that did not have it. Well, let’s say immediately that for those who did not have the “foresight” to buy it on the tree, this Apulian olive now costs 120 euros per quintale, which leads to an average cost of above 10 euros for the finished product .
A day of tests and comparisons
This small prologue is the introduction to a day of reflections, tastings and comparisons inside the Franci mill in Montenero d’Orcia (Mount Amiata, Castel del Piano), which invited critics, buyers and operators to critically taste 8 different ways of crushing of the Frantoio cultivar from 8 different batches, all of them coming from the area surrounding the farm.
The meeting first highlighted Giorgio Franci’s and his staff’ maniacal care and research around the extra virgin olive oil and around the various cultivars they usually work with. Twenty different people, professionally competing with each other, sat around a table and expressed completely free – and often not even consolatorial – judgments about the work done by the mill.
First element: the courage of Giorgio Franci to expose himself to criticism of a parterre that was not taken for granted. But this was just what it was: to have real feedback on the product and its possible uses. Not on labels already formed and closed, on already decided blend, but on “rough” pressings, from which blends and various labels will emerge, taken directly from the tanks. How many manufacturers would do a similar thing? Moreover, we have come up with a series of questions about working methods and “tricks” to get some results. In front of the 8 tasting glasses there were, in addition to the undersigned (Stefano Polacchi, ndr): Indra Galbo, Gino Celletti, Marco Oreggia, Sonia Donati, Piero Palanti, Simona Cognoli, Liana Dvletsina, Riccardo Scarpellini and Silvan Brun and entrepreneurs who revolve around the world of olive oil.
Faced with the question of whether there is more fruit or more technique, behind those extra virgins, Giorgio Franci answers: “For me, there is mainly the fruit, the olive. Without a healthy, perfect fruit, there is no technique to keep it”. Then, the different collections and workings are studied. Two specimens were pressed with a knife crusher: 2.800 and 3.600 rpm. And there you go to analyze the result of a product coming from the same olives batch: higher or lower phenolic load, greater or lesser balance. As well as discussing olive harvesting on October 25 or October 18-19: same olive grove, several results. To highlight a peculiarity of the season: in August the olive groves suffered a water stress, though not irreparable. Then, the rains in September and October allowed a rehydration that brought fruit back to fruition, and then it had resulted in a lower phenolic charge than last year, because water was also gone from water-soluble substances.
And two samples were tasted at the same time and in the same field: one from olive trees full of olives and the other with fewer olives. In the second case, more freshness of oil was observed, probably because ripening of the fruits was slower … In short, they were highlighted – to say it with Celletti – “all the possible declarations of artichoke”, typical aroma of the cultivar and beautiful in this extra-virgin.
The fruit fly: three case cases
One thing, however, has been in the air of confrontation right from the start: the very early and unexpected attack of the oil fly that has shaken since early July: never happened. And then, those who were in the field at the time to check and deal with different treatments and substances, they managed to cope with this threaten. Who, instead, belongs to the category of those who, after pruning, tell their olives “See you in harvest time”, did not come out healthy. “I do treatments,” explains Giorgio, “but I do so with the criterion: to the residual analysis, all my oils come out completely clean, well below the threshold allowed by the Organic certification. And I am proud of this, because respect for the consumer is fundamental to me. And a good work in the field, while respecting the periods of decay, proves that good results can be achieved”.
“Today” smiles at Franci’s house the chef Matia Barciulli of Badia a Passignano, who in Montenero d’Orcia has played preparing a dish for each of the 8 tasted oils “man has the best oil available that humanity has ever been able to use “. And then, this extravirgin must be done well, it has to tell a story, a territory: it makes no sense to try to compete on the price line. There is room and there is a market for high quality products that, moreover, give more satisfaction to those who produce them. Of course, it’s tiring to stay behind. But in this world, who is giving something to someone? and then … what’s the taste to win easy?