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

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?

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.

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.

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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!