Tuscan Olive Oil- how to pick the best olive oil

Olive tress at Villa Campestri. Varieties planted here include: leccino, frantoio, moraiolo and leccino del corno.

Olive tress at Villa Campestri. Varieties planted here include: leccino, frantoio, moraiolo and leccino del corno.

If you love Italian olive oil, did you know that Tuscany took a huge hit in olive oil production in 2014? There were many well-regarded publications like NPR,  the New York Times and the BBC that reported on the disastrous matter, attributing crop losses and damages to heavy rains and a predatory fly. Throughout this year in 2015, we have higher hopes for the harvest. The weather has been warm and there has been less rainfall (so far). Perhaps last year wasn't so ideal for those looking to visit a Tuscan olive oil press in Tuscany however this year will (hopefully) be a different story.

Extra virgin olive oil from Italy is a wildly debated topic. There has been attacks on authenticity, origin and quality on olive oil "made in Italy." The main take away message is that olives are precious. They need to be pressed almost immediately upon picking in order to retain flavor and super food antioxidant/polyphenol power. The problem with olives being picked from all over the country and the Mediterranean then shipped to a pressing factory is that these magical powers start to tick tock away with every hour spent off the tree. This is why, it is so important to buy olive oil produced from a single estate which is then pressed on-site, rather than a company which purchases olives and presses at a commercial facility.

Earlier this Spring, I took a visit to Villa Campestri- a self-nominated Olive Oil Resort. Here I learned some interesting facts about olive oil which I didn't know before, despite being a die-hard extra virgin olive oil enthusiast and time spent volunteering on olive oil farms in Italy.

 Here are some facts that my Tuscan olive oil tour at Villa Campestri taught me:

- Those pesky olive oil flies: they were even more devastating because they knew very well how to select the best olives. The females taste the olive before leaving their eggs in the fruit.

-Polyphenol levels in olive oils are improved by taking care of crop cover. Polyphenols are crucial micronutrients, revered for their ability to aid our body's defenses against cancer and disease.  

- Ancient olive oil varieties have a slight odor of spring onion

-olive oil should not be "thick" in texture. If you find thick olive oil, this is a giveaway of rancidity. It should be more "runny."

- when shopping for olive oil, look for the "stamped" year it was pressed. Big commercial producers will usually omit this info, while single origin producers should not. 

- Tuscan olive oil aromas and notes should be related to fresh vegetables and freshly cut grass. If you smell nutty or buttery notes, this is a fault in the olive oil.

Guided olive oil tasting/sensory analysis at Villa Campestri. Now we know how to pick the good stuff.

Guided olive oil tasting/sensory analysis at Villa Campestri. Now we know how to pick the good stuff.

Selecting olive oil which does not have fault is important for our health. It is not just a matter of taste, it is a matter of protecting our health. Rancid or faulted olive oil can be damaging to our health. Why? Rancid olive oil is usually oxidized and oozing with free radicals. Olive oil is supposed to fight free radicals! The easy solution? Pick single origin extra virgin olive oil from an estate that produces their own olive oil very carefully such as from Villa Campestri. A visit here is also great because they lead guided olive oil analysis and tastings so that you can leave as an expert on what olive oil should look, smell and taste like.

You know, good olive oil is needed for delicious pasta too...made on site by the chefs at Villa Campestri

You know, good olive oil is needed for delicious pasta too...made on site by the chefs at Villa Campestri

Apart from the education and quality raw olive oil in its purest form, you can request an olive oil massage or a lunch on the patio with local specialties such as tortelli doused in a meaty ragu', traditional to the Mugello area where Villa Campestri is located.

When is the best time to buy olive oil and to take an olive oil tour in Tuscany? Just know that the olive oil harvest starts in September. This would be the best time to book a Tuscan olive oil tour because the olive oil farms will be pressing olives and you will have the opportunity to see the process raw and in the flesh- no pun intended! Not to mention, all the food festivals which celebrate new olive oil and dinner parties serving toasted bruschetta from fresh, pungent olive oil.

What do you think is the best way to pick extra virgin olive oil? Have you taken an olive oil tour in Italy before? Leave a comment to share your experience!

Coming to Florence and Tuscany? Contact Curious Appetite for tips on where to buy the best olive oil and the most genuine Tuscan olive oil press experiences!

Contact info for Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort:

http://www.villacampestri.com Via di Campestri 19/22 - 50039 Vicchio di Mugello (Firenze) - Italy T. +39.055 8490107 F +39 0558490108 villa.campestri@villacampestri.it

 

Curious Appetite

Curious Appetite, Seattle, WA, USA