#ONE - SINGLE ESTATE BIODYNAMIC EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
The Rocca Deli Olive Grove is in the heart of the Umbria PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) area, between Trevi and Spello. It’s up in the hills, between 600m and 800m. The highest parts of the olive grove were terraced at the end of the XVIII century by the Benedictine monks of the nearby Sassovivo Abbey. This is not a very suitable environment for the olive trees, which thrive on the sea level. They are mainly of the typical local variety, Moraiolo, characterized by small trees with deep roots, highly adaptable to hilly areas. The rest of the trees are Frantoio and Leccino varieties, needed for the pollination of the Moraiolo, which, being a self-sterile variety, would be otherwise unable to produce. Our producer, Fabio, explains that it is during the cold springs typical of the Umbria hills that the trees produce an exceptional amount of antioxidants, called polyphenols, to protect themselves and their fruit from the cold.
Our biodynamic extra virgin olive oil #ONE is 80% Moraiolo and 20% Frantoio and Leccino. The predominance of Moraiolo variety makes it a grassy, pungent and bitter olive oil full of antioxidant and the aromas are those of the typical herbs of the area: rosemary, wild mint, wild thyme, mallow, juniper, etc. The amount of olives produced is very low but of an extraordinary quality.
GLOBALLY IMPORTANT AGRICULTURAL HERITAGE SYSTEM
The POD area Assisi-Spoleto is one of the five areas of the Umbria PDO and since July it has become a FAO GIAHS that is a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System. The GIAHS are “outstanding landscapes of aesthetic beauty that combine agricultural biodiversity, resilient ecosystem and a valuable cultural heritage. They sustainably provide multiple goods and services, food and livelihood security for millions of small-scale farmers. Unfortunately these agricultural systems are threatened by many factors including climate change and increased competition for natural resources. They are also dealing with migration due to low economic viability, which has resulted in traditional farming practices being abandoned and endemic species and breeds being lost.” The target of creating the GIAHS is to transform these ancestral agricultural systems into “the foundation for contemporary and future agricultural innovations and technologies”. Becoming a GIAHS means being recognised as an important role player in the conservation of agricultural heritage and has been a reward to Fabio’s and other local producers’ honest work in harmony with nature, history and culture.
HARVEST BY HAND
Most of the olives are harvested by hand with the help of last generation harvest sticks that do not damage the branches, the leaves and the olives.
This year Fabio, the olive mill, the University of Perugia and Alfa Laval, the manufacturer of the oil extraction system, are working on a new project: extracting the oil with completely cold water. The policy imposes that the temperature of 27 degrees Celsius is not exceeded throughout the whole extraction process, in order to obtain a “cold extracted” extra virgin olive oil. These guys though, strive for perfection and want to try with cold water to leave the aroma and nutritional properties of their outstanding oils, as untouched as possible. This is just an example of how Fabio is at constant work to offer a product unique in the world.
THE ORGANIC DISCTRICT
Together with other organic producers in Umbria, he is one of the founders of the Umbria Biodistretto. “Biodistretto” means Organic District and it is an area where at least 40% of the production is organic and where producers work together for a sustainable management of the resources. This is another way to protect the cultural and agricultural heritage of an area and to encourage more and more producers to join with obvious positive repercussions on the quality of the air, the water, the soil and ultimately of the products.
Fabio’s farm is the point of reference for the centre of Italy for both the Italian Biodynamic Association and for the productions of EM, Effective Microorganisms. EM is a natural and probiotic technology developed by Dr Higa of the University of Osaka 28 years ago as an alternative for chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They are microorganisms not harmful, non-pathogenic, not genetically modified, nor chemically synthesized that have proven to be a good replacement for copper, which is widely used in standard agriculture and in a smaller percentage, also in organic farming. Copper is used as a pesticide, but not only is it a heavy metal, but also inhibits the vital parts of the tree. The agronomist who follows the project in Italy is Dr Vanni Ficola of the University of Perugia, the capital city of Umbria. Fabio in collaboration with Demeter international, has verified that EM together with biodynamic preparations sprayed on the leaves of olive trees, protect them from the olive fruit fly, the most pernicious insect for the olive trees, and other fungal disease like the olive knot, powdery mildew, etc. They also provide a further strengthening of the microbial activity of the soil, which is incredibly beneficial for the trees. The next step will be to try it at different altitudes to establish the correct dosage.
Fabio goes on explaining the pruning techniques: “The olive trees are pruned at the end of the winter and we give them a spherical shape so that they can receive the greatest amount possible of light and air circulation between the brunches. The distance between trees is between 3 and 8 times the one in intensive agriculture. We have 200 trees per hectare versus 600 / 1600 in intensive olive farming. This allows the trees to grow in a balanced way and allows fruit to ripe in the best possible conditions. Obviously trees that have