Jan2014Large

We love it when visitors come into our shop in Fairfax, Virginia. First time visitors are inquisitive about the differences from the “extra virgin” olive oil they know and use every day (the common grocery store type). For a distinct experience, we provide a first taste of an intense, robust selection, most often from Tuscany or Umbria. Cough, cough.

Immediately, they grasp: there’s something better than the olive oil they have purchased elsewhere. True, authentic, artisan-produced extra virgin olive oil from Italy. (Yes, we are all about Italy).

Our online customers have already become fans of great olive oil. They’ve been buying the good stuff for almost 14 years!

What are the characteristics of fresh olive oil?

Zingy, layered aromas, and distinct flavors. Some possess aromas of fresh leaves, such as crushed olive leaves, or the scent of tomatoes leaves as you brush by them in the garden. Others exhibit the rich fruity smell of an orchard or fruit market. Sicilian oils in particular bring forth grassy aromas, and others may note herbaceous scents.

Take a taste. Does your olive oil evoke symphonies of flavors — a melange of artichoke, tomato, herbs, and grassy notes? Notes of apple, bananas, almonds, walnuts or flowers may come forth. Next comes the finish. It may be pungent and peppery (insert cough here) or milder and buttery–and still full of flavor.

How is fresh olive oil made?

Top quality extra virgin olive oils are harvested from just-ripening fruit. The olive fruits release relatively small amounts of oil at this early stage, but they are bursting with the healthy chemical properties many are seeking. The olives are picked when young, and bruised fruit are discarded. They are pressed within mere hours of picking, in carefully controlled conditions. (Those same trees, if picked weeks later, would yield significantly more oil, but it would be of lower quality, and likely sold in a mass market operation).

Why are there so many extra virgin olive oil labels at Olio2go?

Just as there are many wine selections to pair with food, there are many olive oil matches. If you know wine, you know that the grape varieties, micro-climate, year of harvest, and the winemaker’s skill make a great difference. There are significant parallels in the world of olive oil. (And, many Italian wine makers also produce excellent olive oil). Whether you are purchasing a Tuscan olive oil for your grilled steak, or a Calabrian for your grilled vegetables, or a Sicilian for your fennel salad, the pairings will be perfectly matched.

What else should I know? 

By tradition, some producers decant, while others bottle quickly after harvest. Early bottlings are most often unfiltered, yielding oils that appear cloudy or even milky. Some producers label their first bottles as Novello, meaning new oil. Whether labeled or not, all extra virgin olive oil, promptly pressed, bottled, and (first) released is Novello.

Just as there are many wine competitions with producers striving for top quality recognitions, there are important olive oil competitions and awards.

Does olive oil get better with age? 

No! All olive oil will degrade in time. If you start with a top quality olive oil, store it well, and use it promptly once opened you will best enjoy this culinary magic. Some varieties of olives yield oils that last longer than others. Selections crafted from Frantoio olives (known best as a Tuscan variety) and Moraiolo olives (known best as an Umbrian variety) are among those with the best lasting power.

As an olive oil ages, those distinct flavor characteristics fade. In time, the olive oil will taste flat and fatty–and eventually rancid.

Our goal is to sell the current harvest olive oil as soon as it is available — and to sell out long before the “best by” date.

What should I know about olive oil storage? 

Extra virgin olive oil is best kept in a cool, dark place. The selections on our shelves are for show. We prefer to “pull” your oil from our cool, low-light, temperature-controlled warehouse, where the oils has been kept in the dark, in shipping cartons.

Where can I learn more about great olive oil?

Click these links for more information on the anatomy of a great label, authenticity, organic certifications, and the most recent olive oil awards.

How can I purchase great olive oil?

You can purchase online at Olio2go. There’s no minimum purchase and we offer a 10% case discount on six or more. Orders are shipped promptly! If you would like auto-shipping or an Olive Oil Club, please complete the form below to provide your address and budget. We will respond via email.

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New2014

With the arrivals of the new harvest olive oils comes the first of the new awards and recognitions for high quality extra virgin olive oil.

The 2014 Flos Olei, published early in the harvest year, is the well regarded Marco Oreggia review of olive oils. In general, Flos Olei 2014 awarded the 2012 harvest selections. It is seen by many as a watchdog of consistent quality in the industry with the idea that the recognized producers provide consistently exceptional olive oils from year to year. You can see last year’s list here.

In the 2014 edition, Flos Olei’s Top 20 awards three of the olive oils we regularly carry. Most notably, we already have Quattrociocchi’s Olivastro Bio 2013, awarded Best Olive Oil from Organic Farming by Flos Olei’s Marco Orreggia.

From the Top 20

Farm of the Year: DeCarlo (new harvest coming soon)

Best Olive Oil from Organic Farming: Quattrociocchi Olivastro Bio 2013

Best Extra Virgin Intensely FruityFrantoio Franci Villa Magra

The Flos Olei guide lists an abundance of well-regarded olive oil producers (we will carry harvest 2013 selections – they are in stock or on order):

Trentino Alto – Adige

Frantoio di Riva, 2013 in stock!

Emilia Romagna

Tenuta Pennita, Alina in stock

Toscana

Tenuta di Capezzana, 2013 in stock

Oliveto Fonte di Foiano, samplers in stock, more expected in early January

Frantoio Franci, selections

La Poderina Toscana, Oro and Argento in stock

Fattoria di Monti, three selections in stock

Fattoria Ramerino, Guadagnòlo Primus in stock!

Marche

Azienda del Carmine, arriving January 2014

Umbria

Az. Agr. Marfuga, L’affiorante in stock

Lazio

Società Agricola Colli Etruschi, arriving soon

Az Agr Bio Americo Quattrociocchi, in stock

Campania

Madonna dell’Olivo, Raro and Itrans selections available

Puglia

Az. Agr. DeCarlo, restocking soon

Calabria

Tenute Pasquale Librandi, selections arriving January 2014

Sicily

Azienda Agricola Antonino Centonze, Arriving January 2014

Frantoi Cutrera, in stock

Planeta, selections available

Azienda Agricola Ravida, selections available

Azienda Agricola Biologica Titone, 2013 coming soon!

Olive Harvesting in Sicily

Olive Harvesting in Sicily


The olive harvest is underway and visits were made to Planeta, Ravida and Gianfranco Becchina’s estate this week. The Becchina estate in Castelvetrano is the home of Olio Verde and Olio Verde al Limone. The Planeta estate is in Menfi, as is the Ravida estate.

Take a look at this photo of the workers picking the olives at Planeta’s grove, a tradition that dates back centuries.

Frescobaldi First Pressing — fresh, zingy, pungent, aromatic, stunning, peppery, and flavorful! Or fruity, artichoke, herbaceous, complex, buttery, pungent!

Tenuta di Capezzana Olio Nuovo — this oil bring forth various characteristics from year to year. This year’s blend is somewhat milder and buttery than the past year’s selection. Flavor notes: hint of green tea, nutty, buttery, clean, soft, peppery finish. Together with the Frescobaldi, this shows the range of characteristics in Tuscan olive oils.

La Poderina Toscana — continues to be a masterful extra virgin olive oil, crafted by Davide Borselli, and well-deserving of the Association 3E recognition. New Label.

Mascio Novello — from the producers of Principe di Mascio, this rustic oil brings for the raw goodness of olive oil. Packed with intense flavor characteristics, this will enliven flavorful dishes. From Umbria.

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Just back from the San Francisco bay area, I had a chance to visit Market Hall Foods, a cluster of stores and one restaurant, Oliveto, in Oakland. This collection includes a bakery, cheese shop, coffee, dry goods (pantry items), fish monger, and butcher under one roof. We carry some of the same olive oils and dry goods, so you could say it was a bit of a scouting trip. It was definitely worth the side trip, but not a full substitution for my current craving: a return to Seattle’s Pike Place Market.

We selected cheeses and purchased Mugolio. Just this week Florence Fabricant wrote about Mugolio in the New York Times. (We carry it at Olio2go, but I hadn’t packed a bottle in my bag!) We purchased a bottle of this piney goodness for dessert. Drizzled over vanilla bean ice cream, it called out for a crunchy topping. Further experiments will determine whether toasted pine nuts or glazed walnuts will be superior. A novel, artisanal, gourmet goodie!

Lunch at Oliveto was the highlight of the trip. We shared four small plates plus fried Ceci beans (just how many calories do you think those have?) The squash with pesto was our favorite, followed closely by the Brussels Sprouts salad. Our third favorite was the Pinzimonio with fennel, celery, and radishes. Each was a close favorite followed more distantly by the Potato Arrabiata, which was missing a good bit of fire. With a basket of crispy brick oven bread, and a few generous pours of a zesty, green, and fresh extra virgin olive oil, this was the kind of meal that makes memories. While we don’t know what oil they used (likely a Californian), Frankies 457 Olio Nuovo has just the right characteristics for this meal.

We were among the last of the lunch time diners as we savored our meal and our coffees, with the conversation and analysis only two 50-year Italian cousins could share!

We are kicking off the new year with another taste of Olio Verde, the fabulous extra virgin olive oil from Castelvetrano, Sicily. By now, you’ve certainly heard of Olio Verde, and we hope that you’ve had the great opportunity to try Olio Verde Novello. Through the years, this early harvest olive oil has been a very strong seller, as it always heralds the beginning of the new olive oil season. Certainly many olive oil fans experienced their first lively taste in a holiday gift from Olio2go.

 

The team at the Gianfranco Becchina’s estate Tenuta Pignatellli in Sicily has spent the last few months adding to their web site with a terrific blog with articles on their olive oil production, and it includes appealing recipes, like this one for Pasta with Boiled Cauliflower (and Olio Verde Novello). This simple and easy recipe highlights the pure fresh flavors of cauliflower, olive oil, and pasta in a very appealing week-day recipe.

If you’re planning a trip to Sicily in the new year, we recommend that you make a visit to the Becchina estate. We hope you enjoy their blog and are fans of their stunning Nocellara del Belice monocultivar unfiltered olive oil.

The snowy loading dock at Olio2go's World Headquarters.
The snowy loading dock at Olio2go’s World Headquarters.

After the big weekend snowstorm, we braved the snow and ice to pack holiday gifts at Olio2go. You can bet that the UPS driver was not amused when he could not reach our loading dock. But, somehow, all of the orders that came in through the weekend snowstorm made it out on Monday.  It’s been a great holiday season with Da Vinci Crude (sold out), Azienda del Carmine Sampler Gift Set (just a few remaining), Towers of Tuscany (sold out), the Manicardi Gift Set, and of course, the Novello olive oil selections, including Tenuta di Capezzana and Olio Verde.