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

Olio2go:  Internet Purveyor of Italy’s Finest

OliveOilTimesCover

Celebrating our 15th year of selling Italy’s authentic olive oils to discerning consumers! We’re thrilled to have been interviewed by the Olive Oil Times for our role in bringing authentic Italian extra virgin olive oil to the U.S.

Here’s our mini FAQ:

Olive Oil: The juice pressed from fresh olives. The quality is depends on the ripeness and condition of the olives at the time of pressing. Olives that are just ripening and have no bad fruit, when crushed promptly, produce the highest quality olive oil, extra virgin.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Acidity level below 0.80% and a professional organoleptic taste test indicating no faults. This is the best quality of olive oil, and those with the lowest acidity levels are considered Super Premium.

Olive Oil Benefits: Many of the known and researched benefits of olive oil are tied to the Mediterranean Diet and issues related to Inflammation (The Zone Diet). The FDA allows a health claim to be included on the labels of olive oils.

Italian Olive Oil: We’re passionate about Italian olive oils because of the craftsmanship and care – and centuries of traditions. To us, others are fine, but Italian olive oils are the best. While any olive oil bottled in Italy can carry the Product of Italy label, we work with carefully selected producers to ensure authentic production and quality.

Crush Dates and Labels: It is important to read an olive oil label, but we recommend that you read it carefully and with thought. A Tuscan olive oil will simply be labeled as Raccolto 2013, because Tuscan olives are only harvested between late October and early December each year (with slight variations for weather conditions). You may also be interested to learn more about organic certification and labeling for olive oil.

How do Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oils Differ? Northern olive oils tend to be exquisite and less intense than those from other regions. Tuscan selections tend to be intense and flavorful and peppery; those from Umbria are slightly rounder than the Tuscans in flavor. Those from Lazio (the region of Rome) bring forth essences of green, while those from Puglia (the heel of the boot) finish with a strong pepper kick. The extra virgin olive oil selections from Sicily are grassy and some offer elements of tomato. There are many differences, but that’s the quick list of characteristics.

Cooking with olive oil: This is a favorite topic and we look at it simply. The producers do not buy olive oil to cook with. They use what they have carefully nurtured and crafted. A home, we keep 2-3 bottles in the cool, dark cupboard and choose the bottle with the least if we need a couple of tablespoons to roast vegetables or sauté chicken cutlets.

How to Store Olive Oil: In a cool, dark place. We do not recommend a refrigerator as some may get too cold. (And the refrigerator test is not valid).

For more information on quality extra virgin olive oil, we recommend the Olio2go Olive Oil FAQ and this piece on the Anatomy of a Great (Olive Oil) Label.

Sign up for our email list to stay up to date on new olive oil arrivals and the latest in olive oil news.

 

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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.

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.

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?

It’s been a snowy season in much of Europe and Davide Borselli of La Poderina Toscana has sent these photos to us. This snowy view is beautiful but no one yet knows what this cold means for the olive trees. In  1986, there was a devastating freeze throughout Tuscany, one that destroyed thousands of trees.   We don’t know that the freeze will mean for the trees or this year’s harvest, but you really should try Davide’s fabulous La Poderina Toscana Seggianese extra virgin olive oil.