The most popular product at Olive and Rosy in our little corner of Somerset is our olive oil. Stefano's family have been growing and harvesting their own olives for over 15 years from this lovely little grove just a short walk from the family home in the Veneto, North East Italy.
Nestled in the foothills of the grand Mont Grappa, at 190m above sea level, the trees enjoy this beautiful view as the countryside and small villages stretch out beyond them. Originally a vineyard the land had become wild until it was taken on as a joint venture by the local community. Several families care for their own collection of trees within the field.
How is the oil made?
Harvest days are a big family event lasting three to four days shared between the field and the mill.
The freshly hand picked olives are stored in crates in a dark room until enough have been gathered to be pressed.
Within 48 hours the olives are taken to the nearby mill to be pressed through proper stone wheels.
This stage is called "cold pressing" or in Italian: "Spremitura a freddo". The cold press process is slower but doesn’t alter the properties and nutrients of the oil.
You can watch the process below.
Not all the olives are the same, like for making wine or cider, there are specific species that are grown for making oil and others that are more pulpy so will become table olives for eating. In fact, if you want to make olive oil it is the stone that is needed and not the "fruit" pulp.
The pulp is a surplus and when the olives are mashed and it is pressed, the liquid that comes out isn't ready yet.
A centrifuge stage will separate the watery liquids from oil and the oil is then ready to naturally decant for a few days to allow the sediments to settle.
What makes a good olive oil?
The composition of the soil is a key factor that helps. Limestone and clay aren't good elements if their presence is too high (above 70% of the soil composition).
It is recommended to have various species in the same orchard as a way to create a unique blend that will stand out from the crowd. As with any other fruit there are many varieties of olive, all with a specific taste. Selecting a good mix of different types is a skill that farmers secretly keep for themselves in order to give their product it's own distinctive flavour.
Sun exposure is relevant but not really essential, a warm/continental climate is more important than the sun exposure. Rain is good but too much will give a fruit with less oil content.
The height of the land where they are farmed helps, it's being noticed that between 120 and 250 meters above sea level is ideal in north Italy for the type of climate that occurs there.