Cold Pressing and other Terminology


SlowFoodItalyLogo

The new 2015 list of awards/recognition for Italian Olive Oils has been released by Slow Food in Italy. Olio2go carries many of farms included in the book.

We carry 12 of the top olive oils recognized by Slow Food Italy. These are estate bottled and sealed. We import in bottles at great expense (glass is heavy!), and feel that the consumer should receive the oil as it left the farm (not passed from tank to tank to bottle).

The full top awards list can be seen here:

SlowFood2015Awards

Chiocciole

Abruzzo, Trappeto di Caprafico

Emilia-Romagna, Tenuta Pennita (coming soon)

Lazio, Colli Etruschi (coming soon)

Sicilia, Biologica Titone

Oli Slow

Sicilia, Biologica Titone

Sicilia, Villa Zottopera Bio

Toscana, Fonte di Foiano 1979 (coming soon)

Toscana, Fonte di Foiano, Frantoio (coming soon)

Grandi Oli

Puglia, DeCarlo Torre di Mossa

Sicilia, Cutrera Primo DOP

Toscana, Franci Olivastra Seggianese (coming soon)

Umbria, Marfuga L’affiorante

All can be purchased at Olio2go.com. We ship promptly within the U.S. and Canada.

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RadarFlorenceSept2014

For three months now there have been stunning reports of the difficult, challenging, and horrible olive harvest in Italy. Decades have passed since such a crisis last occurred, and that, the Tuscan freeze of 1985, did not reach the broad geographical proportions of this one.

During the month of October, we learned of the losses on a daily basis. Each phone call and email told a tale of crop failures and weather issues. Few areas were immune. In general, windstorms, rain, a cool summer, and a hailstorm were the weather issues. A bug and a fungus took hold as well.

Videos of the 18 September 2014 hailstorm in Tuscany can be seen here and here.

As reported to us, the harvests in Sicily were early and small. Problems were noted from The Veneto to Puglia. Producers in Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, and Abruzzo piled on tales of woe.

Outstanding producers chose to bottle no oil in the fall of 2014: Tenuta di Capezzana, Poggio Etrusco, Avignonesi, Fattoria di Monti, Decimi, and others.  We were informed of difficulties among many others who have valiantly produced much smaller quantities than normal. And, need we mention price increases?

There is a human toll that goes far beyond the kitchen table. Families, including farm workers, and bottlers, have experienced reduced wages from the poor harvest. Quality olive oil will likely cost more than ever.

Remembering that there are always variations in characteristics for year to year, the 2014s we have tasted provide a remarkable testament to the skills of the producers. Aromatic, fresh, grassy, bitter, and spicy can all be found in our lucky bottles.

Jan2015Grp

We continue to remain optimistic as we have carefully sourced 30 selections so far this season. Our full line of new olive oils (many shown in photo) can be purchased here.

Frantoi Cutrera, Frescolio and Primo DOP

La Poderina Toscana Organic, Oro and Argento

Gianfranco Becchina’s Olio Verde Novello

Frescobaldi First Pressing

Titone Novello

Santisi Novello

Azienda del Carmine, Ascolana and Olio del Carmine

CantinArte OroPuro

di Giovanna (Gerbino Biologica)

Marfuga L’Affiorante 

Villa Zottopera Bio and Rosso

Fratelli Colletti

Fattoria Ramerino Primus and Cultivar Frantoio

Principe di Mascio, Novello and DOP

Quattrociocchi Olivastro

In the coming months we look forward to arrivals of many more selections from Italy, including favorites such as:

Olio Librandi

Centonze

Gargiulo Sorrentolio Venus

La Pennita, Alina

Castello del Trebbio

Badia a Coltibuono

Our challenge is to continue to bring in the best Italian extra virgin olive oil in quantities to carry us through to the 2015 harvest.

 

For more information on the topic of the 2014 olive harvest, we recommend the following clicks:

New York Times: Amid bugs, hail, floods…

Los Angeles Times: Europe Suffers Olive Oil Disaster

NPR: Olive Oil Producers in Crisis

Olio Verde Olives

Our customer “Wayne in Connecticut” has sent us a few excellent questions about olive oil production. We’re happy to share them with you.

Q. Is olive oil pressed from just the green unripened olives, the black ripened ones, or both?   If both, there must be a distinct general difference between the taste of “green olive oil” and ripened olives.

The highest quality olive oils are pressed when the green olives just begin to change color. This yields an oil full of flavor and possessing the best attributes. As olives continue to develop and ripen, they yield more oil, but that oil possesses a higher acidity level. It is very expensive to produce a high quality oil. There are some productions that yield only a liter or two per tree.

If you are mixing an oil having a very low acidity, with an oil with a significantly higher acidity level, you will end up with an “average” oil. Oils pressed from riper olives also seem to degrade or lose their characteristics at a faster clip.

Q. I notice in your descriptions of the oils, their flavor is usually a reference to a particular taste… say “green grass”, some fruit, peppery, etc.   Is this a product of aging the olive oil with flavorings or just the natural flavor of the individual brand of olives grown?  I assume olive oil is aged–maybe it isn’t?— just pressed & bottled instead?

The grassy, fruity, peppery characteristics are due primarily to the olive cultivars. The oils from Sicily (predominantly Nocellara, Biancollila, and Cerasuola cultivars) tend to be grassy, and the cultivars are different from the more pungent oils from Tuscany (predominantly Frantoio and Leccino). For top quality extra virgin olive oils those lovely distinctions are directly due to the cultivars grown and the skill of the grower.

The Novello oil (first of the season) is freshly bottled by those producers who believe in selling new oil. Not all believe this is the right thing to do!  By tradition, some producers prefer to let their oil settle or decant for a few weeks before bottling. Those producers store oil in stainless steel tanks with great care to preserve the freshness.  Aging is not a good thing.

In part 1 of the Olive Oil Buyer’s Guide, we took a look at the anatomy of a great label on a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. For a refresher, take a look the detailed and revealing look at Primo DOP from Frantoi Cutrera in Sicily.


In this update, we’ll take a look at the symbols of Organic Certification. And, let’s talk terminology: Biologica is the Italian term for Organic. On labels, this is sometimes shortened to Bio.

There has long been significant cooperation on Organic standards between the U.S. and the European Union (EU). For years, agencies in Europe have been certified to meet US Department of Agriculture standards, and the olive oils imported to the US were able to use the USDA Organic seal on their labels.

We’re now at the cusp of a transition in labeling and a new agreement features a freshly designed symbol for EU Organic products. As a result of the trade agreement, both the EU Organic seal and the USDA Organic seal may be used. For products imported to the US, either seal represents that the product meets the organic standards in the US.  We’ve already noticed early arrivals of Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil carrying this attractive new leaf symbol.

Organic certification can be costly and some smaller olive oil producers will continue to elect to grow their olives organically, without adding the costs of certification. Within the product descriptions at Olio2go, those are noted as “organically produced”.

While we have many biologica/organic olive oils on our web site at OLIO2GO, we think that the labels on Titone, Trampetti, and Volpaia do a great job of illustrating the application of the seals. Titone’s neck label clearly shows the DOP and USDA Organic symbols, Trampetti carries the leaf on the front label, while Volpaia’s label includes the EU leaf on the back of the bottle.

Mary and Luanne sharing olive oil tips.

College Classes on Olive Oil Tasting?

That would be our wish. How about a super nutrition class on why good food is better and worth the effort? Does anyone know of a liberal arts seminar on this?

Until then, we’re happy to help out with tastings at culinary programs, like this week’s session in the fabulous test kitchen in NOVA’s Culinary section of the Hospitality Department (Northern Virginia Community College). We’re practically neighbors, and we appreciate their interest in …..food!

We shared a tasting beginning with a bland, disappointing, fusty and rancid oil.

Then we moved on to select premium extra virgin olive oils from Liguria, Tuscany, Puglia, and Sicily:

Liguria

Vittorio Cassini Classico

Tuscany

La Poderina Toscana Biologica, DOP Seggianese

Frantoio Franci: Villa Magra dei Franci and Olivastra Seggianese

Puglia

Crudo

Sicily

Santisi Novello

Olio Verde Novello

Zisola DOP Monti Iblei Val Tellaro

We had fun noting the characteristics such as fruity, grassy, and herbaceous. The peppery burn (pizzicata) was well noted! The best question of the day: Where does the peppery sensation go when the great olive oil is on food?

Monday was a day filled with excitement as the first 2011 harvest olive oils reached our warehouse. First to arrive? Olio Verde Novello, Capezzana Olio Nuovo, and Frescobaldi Laudemio First Pressing.

We exhaustedly share your excitement as hundreds of bottles are already on their way to our favorite customers.

Stay tuned for more reports on the new arrivals!

P.S. We are taking pre-orders for Las Poderina Toscana (remember the Washington Post article?), Cutrera’s Primo from Sicily, and San Macario from Lucca.

So often at Olio2go, we’re asked pressing questions about olive oil. We have a FAQ and you can read it here.

Olive Trees on a Warm Winter Day

Olive Trees on a Warm Winter Day

These are the Quick Notes.

The earlier the olives are harvested, the less oil they yield. That early oil tends to have peppery characteristics from the “verge of ripeness” of the olives. Early harvested olives yield lower acidity levels than later harvested olives. The early harvested oils also hold the highest levels of the beneficial polyphenols — and associated health benefits.

The early harvest, early bottled, quick shipped olive oils are bottled as Novello oils. We’re planning to carry a half dozen this year. It’s likely that we’ll have three “brands” by early December. Those will be Olio Verde Novello, Tenuta di Capezzana Olio Nuovo, and Canonica Verde Novello. Last year, we had early shipments of Marfuga L’affiorante, Santisi Novello, and Olio Beato Organic New Harvest. The links here relate to the current products. The novellos will be listed on our web site as they become available.

Crossing borders, I like to think of the Novello oils as wine fans think of Beaujolais. It’s the first of the season and definitely worth celebrating.

When do they harvest?

We’re eagerly awaiting news of the harvest. Azienda del Carmine (home of the famed Olio del Carmine and Ascolana) has shared that they are planning to begin the harvest around 15 October. They have even invited our customers to visit the estate to share in the harvest. From Liguria to Sicily, the harvest will take place between October and January, based on the micro-climates of each hillside. Frost is an enemy to the process so those in the coldest microclimates will begin the harvests first, to ensure the crop is harvested before it is “too late”.

And what does cold pressed mean?

In Italian, the phrase “spremitura a freddo” means cold pressed. Through the pressing process, the temperature is monitored to make sure that it does not increase (friction causes heat…) as an increase in temperature can affect the acidity level of the oil. Every Italian extra virgin olive oil is cold pressed.

And, with that, other work is pressing in!