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.

SlowFood2013

Slow Food 2013 has just been released and we have a copy that is fresh off the press (just like great olive oil)!

The guide carries notations on 1131 quality olive oils from 772 notable producers in Italy.

LE CHIOCCIOLE (The Snail): best representation of the values and qualities of Slow Food.

The following abundant selections are in stock at Olio2go.com!

Emilia Romagna

Tenuta Pennita

Lazio

Colli Etruschi

Sicily

Titone

Gli Olio Slow: representing quality cultivation, sustainable practices, and good value for oils from the named region.

Lazio

Olivastro, Quattrociocchi

Grand Oli: excellence in respective category for organoleptic quality, adherence to the territory customs, and native cultivars

Campania, Madonna dell’Oliva, Raro

Emilia Romagna, Alina from La Pennita

Puglia, Torre di Mossa from DeCarlo

Sicily, Titone DOP

Toscana, Ramerino Dulcis

Toscana, Fonte di Foiano Gran Cru

Toscana, Fonte di Foiano, Frantoio Monocultivar

Toscana, Frantoio Franci, Villa Magra Gran Cru

Noted Estates

Trentino Alto-Adige, Agraria Riva del Garda

Emilia-Romagna,  Tenuta Pennita

Toscano, Fattoria Ramerino, Primus e Dulcis

Toscano, Tenuta di Capezzana

Toscano, Fonte di Foiano

Toscano, Frantoio Franci

Toscano, La Poderina Toscana

Toscano, Frescobaldi

Toscano, Conte Ferdinando Guicciardini, Poppiano, Laudemio

Toscano, Fattoria di Monti, Razzo, Monti

Umbria, Marfuga

Lazio, Americo Quattrociocchi

Lazio, Colli Etruschi

Abruzzo, La Quagliera

Campania, Madonna dell’Olivo, Raro, Itrans

Puglia, De Carlo

Sicilia, Centonze

Sicilia, Frantoi Cutrera

Sicilia, Villa Zottopera

Sicilia, Planeta

Sicilia, Titone

Sardegna, Sebastiano Fadda

For the full list of Slow Food – recognized olive oils currently in stock at Olio2go, click here.

Take a look at this photo! All of these fresh oils (and the balsamic vinegar wine jelly) arrived this week at Olio2go. These lovely, sublime treats cover a lot of territory. From Alina (a Brisighella monocultivar from Emilia Romagna) in the north to Rosso from Villa Zottopera in Sicily.

To see them all with one click, start here.

In the picture (Left to Right):
Principe di Mascio DOP Colli Assisi Spoleto, Umbria
Ursini Tandem DOP Colline Teatine, Abruzzo
Ascolana from Olio del Carmine, Marche
Azienda del Carmine Boxed Set (partially hidden)
Trappeto di Caprafico Organic DOP Colline Teatine, Abruzzo
Olio del Carmine, Marche
Rosso from Villa Zottopera, Sicily
Alina, La Pennita, Emilia Romagna
Rosselli del Turco DOP Chianti Classico, Tuscany

Front, top to bottom:
Livio Pesle Balsamic Vinegar Jelly, Fruili Venezia Giulia
Trappeto di Caprafico, in party favor bottles
Bochicchio Olio Extra Vergine, Basilicata
Venus Organic, Gargiulo Sorrentolio, Campania

Notice the labels.

You get what you pay for…. that sounds so sassy, but really, it’s true. With us. We’ve carefully selected our balsamic vinegars for the store, and feel confident that the relationship between quality and price is appropriate, relative, and proportional. The real shock for some is that as the price goes up, the size of the bottle goes down.  The ultimate traditional balsamic vinegars are silky smooth, syrupy, sweet and incredibly complex.

We select products that adhere to the Italian (and European Union) standards for balsamic vinegar. All true balsamic vinegar comes from the region, Emilia Romagna. The region is further divided and controlled by two consortia, Modena and Reggio-Emilia. (Still with us)?

Each of the consortia bottles their top vinegar (tradizionale) in distinctive, exclusive, bottles. Selections from Modena are in a bottle that looks like a globe on a base, while the selections from Reggio Emilia evoke an upside down tulip or wine glass. With one of those distinctive bottles in your warm hands, and you have 100 ml of the finest aceto di balsamic tradizionale to be found anywhere. The “real thing” will always be in one of these two bottle types.

Certified after a minimum of 12 years, the aceto balsamico is called tradizionale. After the 25 year mark, it may be approved as extravecchio. There’s no further designation although some producers have products they deem to be 50 or 75 years old.

. Modena Reggio Emilia
Bottle Shape Tulip/inverted wine glass Globe on base
Size 100 ml 100 ml
12+ Years May be evaluated for Tradizionale designation May be evaluated for Tradizionale designation
Cap/Label Magenta Cap/White Label (12) Red Label (12)
. . Silver Label (18)
25+ years Gold Cap, gold seal Gold Label
Grapes Trebbiano and Lambrusco must Predominantly Trebbiano must
Wood cask battery Chestnut, cherry, mulberry, juniper, oak Chestnut, cherry, mulberry, juniper, oak

HTML Tables

What’s the difference?

Regional pride. Both consortia produce fine and exclusive comparable products.  Both groups adhere to strict rules, from the production of the grapes to the certification and bottling processes.

Until the last couple of years, the Reggio Emilia selections had been packaged in a box that looks somewhat like a book. More recently some producers have selected packaging in a stronger oval tube.  The Modena boxes are more cube-shaped. Both packages are well designed to protect the precious balsamic vinegar.

Look for the words tradizionale and be prepared to pay dearly. With extravecchio on the label, be prepared to pay even more.

The Other Balsamic Vinegars

Within the past year or so, new regulations have been enacted in Italy (or perhaps the EU). Changes have been made to label standards. When sold in the EU the vinegars may not have the numerals we have been familiar with. In fairness, those numbers have always indicated the vat progression (in the acetaia battery) while some have interpreted those numbers to connote “age”. In order to define them for marketing purposes we are continuing to use the numbers to delineate the age progression. For Aceto Balsamico di Modena, DOC indicates the geographical origin of the ingredients, and also the artisanal methods of production. The IGP label is less restrictive, so when there is a choice, the DOP signifies the more desirable and authentic product.

Some very good vinegars are bottled without full consortium approval. They may be made by producers of tradizionale, but aged less than the minimum of 12 years. These are also known as Condimento grade.

For a number of years we have referred to the products with their richly redundant names, Manicardi Botticella Oro (Gold) 25. Whether or not the 25 is on the label it is still the same excellent vinegar. The same holds true for Argento “22”.  Manicardi 22 and 25, along with the Villa Manodori selections are produced with the same care as traditional balsamics but are not held for the same amount of time. These are a real treat, but not the magical elixir costing $50-$200 more.

Further down the line, we have Manicardi 12. Without the “12” the product long known as Manicardi 12 carries the rather generic name Aceto Balsamico di Modena DOC….We have continued to use the number 12 for continuity, and have received this product with a variety of labeling in the past year. We regularly consume this at home, and the bottle shape, box and label color scheme, and most importantly, quality characteristics have not changed. This product is in line with a young balsamic. It meets DOC standards, but is not in the same production line as those what will become the finest tradizionale vinegars. It’s nice and perfect for salads.

 How to Use Balsamic Vinegar

The top tradizionale and extravecchio are for grand occasions. Special birthdays and anniversaries, an incredible wedding gift. A superb business thank you. Used by the drop. A complex treat on fresh strawberries or raspberries.

The mid products – Manicardi Oro (25) and Argento (22), Villa Manodori Artigianale and Dark Cherry—are also very special albeit with the certification of excellence. Some may use these by the tablespoon with fruit, or cheese, or desserts, or roasted meats. They add a special flare to salads.

Manicardi 12 elevates every day salads. It is richer and smoother than other selections in the price range. We think this is spectacular with a good combination of extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, and freshly ground pepper, on lovely greens.

Jeff’s report and photos from his recent trip to Emilia-Romagna:

Emilia-Romagna feels like two regions combined into one political unit for convenience because the geography, food, wine, and towns have a slightly different feel.  Emilia (from Piacenza to Bologna) is the classic pork and cheese region, so there is a lot of salami, prosciutto, stinco, culatello, etc. to be eaten.  The wines are the Lambrusco and Gutturnio fizzy wines that we usually think of as lesser selections, but in fact are really great if they are of good quality.  The geography is very flat. To the south lies the foothills of the Appenines, so the scenery is very pretty.  To the north is the Po River, and the landscape is very monotonous.

 Romagna is the southeast corner of the region, and includes more mountainous territory.  The food is similar, but this area is really the only olive oil producing part of the region, and so the foods tend to use more oil than in Emilia, where more butter is used.  Romagna also includes the coastal region, so there is a distinct difference in the climate for that reason, too.

In the Comacchio area, the coastal region is made up of a very large lagoon, through which the rivers meander toward the Adriatic.  Among the rivers are the Reno and parts of the Po.  This area is very flat and marshy, and Comacchio is locally famous for eels – the river banks have large nets ready to dip in for an eel harvest as the fish migrate to the Adriatic each September. Click on the photos above to see the EEL photo!

The olive producing area is centered around Brisighella and Terra del Sole, south of Faenza.  Brisighella is a very scenic hill town much like one would find in Tuscany.  Terra del Sole is a Medieval planned community, and a spa town abuts it to the south.  The Terra di Brisighella is the DOP for this area. 

We drove up to La Pennita late in the day.  That was when we got caught in the terrible hail storm. The Alina is 100% Nostrana di Brisighella olives.  Stay tuned as we will try to get this for Olio2go.

We discovered Squacquerone cheese in Brisighella, which was eaten with Gnocco Fritto – little fried puffed breads – molto delizioso!  I’m going to try to make some of that.  We also had the local artichokes – a small purple type that is cut down to the small heart and marinated and/or fried.  The local wines are Sangiovese di Romagna – very inexpensive and very good. 

As far as the cities, we enjoyed Bologna but lost interest after a couple of days.  If you do go, you should read John Grisham’s The Broker while there.  Bologna was a little gritty and filled with tourists and students.  Milan – we had a hard time finding things to do there.  (Other than the fashion sites?) Parma was a different story – we enjoyed the feel of the city and the things to do.  It was a lot less touristy and much more livable.  I would compare it to Verona in terms of a place I could live.

Parma is also where CIBUS is held – the Italian version of Fancy Food Show. 

We rented a car twice with Maggiore (part of National) and the prices were pretty inexpensive relative to Avis – it was about E70 per day for a decent sized car.  We took the train from Milan to Bologna and from Bologna to Parma, and it was an inexpensive, fast, and very easy way to go.  The  current value of the dollar made everything on the trip seem a lot less expensive.  Our meals all seemed much cheaper than in the recent past.   (Ed. Note:  Check back for next month’s Rome report).