Wine is the Dionysian face of the Mediterranean world. Olive oil the Apollonian one. Both fundamental to the balance of our diet and of our ideals, ever since man began tilling the hillsides surrounding the Middle Sea.
Olives themselves, in all their splendid multicolored varieties, and their infinite seasonings and curing methods always have been bread’s companion, a staple a nourishment and a pleasure. For this alone the olive tree should be revered. Yet olive oil is something else again, something more. The athletes of ancient Greece would anoint their bodies before the Olympic Games; and Greek soldiers poured it on their long hair as they ritually combed it before decisive battles. Indeed, the most precious relic of Christianity was once the olive oil in the lanterns of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, a vial of which Kublai Khan asked Marco Polo to bring to him in Xanadu.
And, naturally, olive oil always was, and is, the prime element our of Mediterranean cuisine and diet. Poured over bread with a tomato rubbed into it, it was every child’s summer afternoon snack (merenda). Still my favorite! From there to the highest pinnacles of Mediterranean cooking, it is always present, always the protagonist. Through the Middle East and across Mediterranean Europe, life without Olive oil is simply unthinkable.
Our estate owns roughly 1,500 olive trees. Many are centuries old. We feel an obligation towards them that feeds on generations upon generations of farming: centuries upon centuries of history that becomes memory and runs through our veins.
There is no such thing as “the best olive oil”. And I would never say that ours is the best. I will, however, say that some may and do care for their trees and olives as much as we do, but none more than us. All our trees are organically raised and kept, the soil around them tilled and tilled again; all expertly pruned every two years. The olives are all hand picked, and every day’s harvest cold pressed every evening. The oil is then left to naturally decant until February-March and is bottled without filtering. Our volcanic soils confer sweetness and finesse to it, and a lovely bouquet. The cold nights inhibit our fruits worst enemy, the olive fly. The result is an outstanding Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Costs are very high. We lose a little money every year. Someday soon I hope to break even. It doesn’t really matter that much, especially when you see the newly pressed gold-green olive oil gushing free from the press. Some things just have to be done.