TASTING THE NEW OIL
Last year we missed the FRANTOI APERTI, and I was so glad we’d be here this year to taste the new oil. The first year we were here we visited frantoi all over Umbria, but now that we’re a bit more educated we concentrate on the area around Trevi, since that particular area has the spiciest, strongest oil…the kind we like.
Umbria is divided into five zones with regards to olive oil. Just as wine is now certified by DOC or DOCG labeling, so is olive oil. DOP means ‘Denominazione d’Origine Protetta”, meaning that the olives are certified to be from the specified area, and in the specified proportions. Each zone has different specifications for it’s oil, and in the Colli Assisi-Spoleto area where Trevi is located, the specifications for the oil are as follows: 60% (minimum) Moraiolo Olives, 30% (maximum) Leccino and Frantoio varities, and no more than 10% of other varieties. Other areas use different percentages of each olive variety, and even if you don’t know that Moraiolo are the spicy olives, a helpful guide on the FRANTOI APERTI site will tell you not only the blend of olives, but also whether the oil is spicy (piccante), strong (forte), fruity, (fruttato) bitter (amaro), etc.
The FRANTOI APERTI website, a wealth of too much information, eventually revealed what I really wanted: the program for the weekend, complete in two pdf downloads. At last, a map of the participating frantoi! I could now begin to plot our day, to decide where we’d first taste the new oil.
I was so busy that I really didn’t look at much of the other info, but luckily Art did. By digging through all the information Art discovered that both Spoleto and Trevi were offering shuttle busses to the various frantoi, and each city appeared to be hosting other activities too….finally, we see people learning how to market their products! Because Trevi was closer, and because there were several olive mills in that area, we decided to drive to Trevi to check it out.
Trevi, a charming medieval hilltown south of Umbria calls itself the “City of Oil”. It’s surrounded literally by hundreds, maybe thousands, of olive trees that create a silvery green backdrop. We arrived around 11 a.m. and checked with someone working at the information booth. She told us the shuttle bus would leave around 12:30 and that it would be waiting right where we were standing. We grabbed some of the brochures and set out to explore.
We had a chance to admire the antique cars on display (see my previous post), visit a frantoio within walking distance of the centro, and see what was happening in the main piazza. Trevi is also known for it’s ‘black’ celery, which explained why we kept seeing people with bags containing HUGE stalks of celery. Once we reached the main piazza we saw crate after crate of celery, plenty of winter vegetables, sausages, cheese, and of course, the star of the day….lots and lots of olive oil.
We tasted several different oils and decided that we really liked the oil from the Gaudenzi Frantoio, and yes! they had it in 3 liter tins! We’d decided to take some back to the states with us in December, and thought that a 3 liter tin made more sense than a 5 liter tin. With luggage weight restrictions being what they are, every pound (or should I say chilo?) counts.
Also in the piazza was a huge grill for toasting bread. We lined up with everyone else who was waiting for the next batch of bruschetta! Once again the simplest of ingredients combine to make such a perfect treat….bread, garlic, olive oil and salt....YUMMMMM!
We bought the oil and took it to the car just as the shuttle bus was pulling up. It held about twenty people so we got on board and waited for the driver to return. Once we left the centro we drove slowly back down the hillside, past places we remembered from previous years, to our first stop….and we were a little surprised to see that it was FRANTOIO GAUDENZI ….the oil we’d just bought in the centro. Well, at least we wouldn’t have to lug the oil back with us. Once inside the fairly new building (they were just completing it when we were there in 2003) everyone was given the chance to see the modern equipment used to produce the oil and to listen to a short talk.
Back on the bus after about twenty minutes we made our way to our second stop….the COOPERATIVA di TREVI . The oil here wasn’t as spicy as the previous frantoio, so I took the opportunity to look around the display area where they sell not just oil, but fresh meats, sausages, pasta, beans, and…surprise surprise! Olive liqueur!
We first saw this olive liqueur way back in December of 2003 at a Christmas exposition in Bastia. Luckily they were offering samples, and once Art tried it he couldn’t resist. Our friend Wendy was quite taken with it as well, and she bought several bottles as gifts that year. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to find it since!
As soon as I saw the distinctive bottle of olive liqueur I called out to Art, then reached for my cell phone to give Wendy a call. Naturally the price had gone up since we first bought it four years ago, but still, €20 for such a unique taste of Umbria seemed money well spent. When we took our bottles to the checkout desk the girl overheard us talking and told us that it was nearly impossible to find…and we told her yes, we knew that only too well.
Okay, onward to the next frantoio! This one turned out to be one we’d searched for before but never found. I think it must have been at the end of the day, and when we didn’t find it right off the bat we just said the heck with it and gave up. Now the area’s a bit more developed and I think the signs are better, and we found ourselves at the last stop of the day, "IL FRANTOIO", where we would taste olive oil in ways we never imagined!