Our orchards are arranged on long, narrow terraces, on the hillside in Bardolino. (A pretty, romantic, ecologically pleasing arrangement - not an efficient one!) We cut the lawn around the trees only three times a year, preferring to enjoy the wildflowers and encourage them to flower and re-seed.
Besides pruning and watering, the trees don’t require much care. Our altitude seems to provide a fair amount of protection from pests that are common at lower elevations. We inspect the fruit carefully for the presence of pests during crucial periods each year, but only rarely do we find it necessary to spray pesticides.
The fruit maturity is very important to the quality of the oil. As opposed to the harvest of grapes, olives are best harvested slightly before they are ripe, when they possess a greater breadth of aromas and flavours. Harvesting them early also gives them a longer shelf life. Olives that are harvested too late will yield sweet, bland oils that are very fragile and contain fewer anti-oxidants.
Our olives are harvested by hand using combs. They are gently stroked off the tree onto nets, and then put into small crates. Some varieties, notably Casaliva, are harvested separately to make a premium varietal. The rest are harvested together. Harvesting usually begins in November, when the conditions are right (low sugar and enzyme activity).
Extensions : 2 hectars, 450 plants
Varieties : Casaliva, Pendolino, Leccino, Favarol
As olive oil is made from fruit rather than seeds like most vegetable fats, it can be extracted easily without complicated processing. We start with good fruit, then as quickly as possible crush it to separate oil from the solids and fruit-water.
The olives must be pressed within hours of being harvested. At the end of each harvest day, our olives are brought to a small mill, where they are washed and de-stemmed. Then the olives are ground into a paste and cold-pressed.
The mill that we use has a modern two- or three-phase decanter centrifuge. The three-phase centrifuge separates the oil, water and paste separately, whereas the two-phase centrifuge separates the oil from a wet paste. This is then put into a second centrifuge that rotates faster, eliminating remaining water and solids. This technology ensures that the temperatures remain below 27 degrees C., and the valuable aroma compounds, phenols, etc., are not lost. As a result, the oil is more resistant to oxidation.
Since every fruit or fruit juice that comes in contact with oxygen, light or heat begins to change naturally (e.g. it starts fermenting or rotting), it is important to protect quality olive oil from these changes from the moment of harvest to the table. Within days, the pressed oil is filtered to prevent deterioration (see next section for more details), and the finished olive oil is stored it in air-tight containers in a cool dark cellar. In every step of the oil-making process we adhere to the highest standards of hygiene, temperature and timing to preserve all its valuable constituents, biophenols and flavours.
Filtering and Bottling
Filtering olive oil is not always necessary. Unfiltered olive oil still has olive particles suspended in it, making a fresh and lively- tasting oil. It should be consumed within four to five months, or poured into another bottle to remove the sediment. The bulk of our production is filtered naturally through a cotton gravit filter, and then immediately bottled.
Using and Storing
Olive oil has been an important part of the Mediterranean kitchen for thousands of years, and is rapidly becoming an essential for gourmets all over the world. As well as being used in the process of cooking, it is wonderful in marinades and sauces, but more importantly as a condiment used on its own. We love to drizzle olive oil on poached or grilled fish, and on roasted meats – as an alternative to herbed butter or gravy. Of course, as a bread dip, it can’t be topped.
Oil should be stored in dark air-tight containers, at a constant temperature of 14-18° C. It will crystallize at 12°, and when returned to room temperature, will deteriorate quickly. A 3 L canister of olive oil, once opened, should be poured into smaller bottles to prevent oxidation.