Archive for the Olive Oil Category

A Tour At The Mezzetti Winery, Vernazzano, Lake Trasimeno, Umbria

As you may know I run a tour a I Girasoli di Sant’Andrea Winery in the Niccone Valley. I have recently qualified as an Italian sommelier and am always interested to try wines and visit other wineries. In the last few years, the wines from Lake Trasimeno have caught my attention for their quality and great value for money. As the Lake is close to many of our rental villas I’ve been thinking about putting an itinerary together for a wine themed tour in this area. Last week I visited the Mezzetti winery on the north shore of Lake Trasimeno. The winery is just outside the village of Vernazzano, well known in the area for its leaning tower. You can read about a Walk From Tuoro To The Leaning Tower of Vernazzano by clicking on the link.

The Mezzetti winery owns around 13 hectares of vineyard and several thousand olive trees. The vineyards are in Umbria (Lake Trasimeno) and Tuscany (Cortona) and the wines produced from each area are kept separate. The tour (in English) lasts around 45 minutes and covers olive oil and wine production followed by a tasting. We tasted seven wines and for me the best were the two Tuscan Sangiovese, one priced at €7 and the other €15. In my opinion the best value for money was the €7 Sangiovese, aged for four months in oak.

The wines priced at €7 were a Grechetto (white), Syrah (rosé), an unoaked Sangiovese / Cabernet / Merlot blend (all Umbrian) and the pure Sangiovese (Tuscan with 4 months in oak) that I mention above. I also quite liked the unoaked blend but, given that it was the same price as the more structured (and interesting) Sangiovese, the latter was the obvious choice to buy.

The wines priced at €15 were a Sangiovese, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot, all Cortona DOC, all good wines but the Sangiovese was my clear favourite for the money. They do make a Cortona DOC Syrah too but, unfortunately, there wasn’t any available to try.

The tour takes place on Wednesday mornings, it starts at 10am and the tasting finishes around 12 midday, the cost is €5/head, phone ahead to book a place.

Tel 0039.0.575.678528 – 0039.335.8305853.

 

Olive oil production is explaned during a visit to the Mezzetti winery near Lake Trasimeno in Umbria, Italy
In the vineyard at the Mezzetti winery near Lake Trasimeno, Umbria, Italy
The wines from the Mezzetti Winery are grown in both Tuscany and Umbria

Olive Harvest On The Tuscany Umbria Border, Italy

Every autumn in late October and early November we harvest the olives at Casa del Lupo and Casa degli Ulivi (ulivi is local dialect for olive, so Casa degli Ulivi means House of the Olives). We’ve slowly been pruning the trees back into shape, which is a vase shape that leaves the olives on easily reachable branches and allows light into the centre of the tree.

Harvesting olives on the Tuscany Umbria border

Harvesting olives on the Tuscany Umbria border

The aim is to get over 300kg of olives so that we can get our own oil from a single pressing rather than oil from the collective press. You also have to book a pressing at the mill and cannot miss your slot. This means we have to work like crazy to get enough olives in a few days, if olives are left too long before pressing they can go mouldy. The weather can be unpredictable at this time of year which means we have to keep an eye on the forecast when planning the pick, there is no point starting if rain is going to stop work for a few days.

Gathering the olives in the net

Gathering the olives in the net

We still pull the olives off by hand but more and more people are investing in a harvesting device with long mechanical fingers. The olives drop onto a net spread on the ground below.

Close-up of olives in the net

Close-up of olives in the net

We need about thirteen crates full of olives to get 300kg, once our target is achieved it’s time to head to the mill. At the mill a blower removes leaves and light stalks, the olives are washed and then smashed with hydraulic hammers. The paste is passed through a couple of centrifuges and, at the end, around 60 litres of bright green high quality oil is ready for bottling.

Olives in a hopper at the mill

At the olive mill

Olive oil from Tuscany and Umbria is noted for its low acidity and spicy, peppery nose. The high altitudes where the olives are grown means that they don’t overipen in the cooler autumn air. This means a low acidity and a high quality oil.

Olive oil coming out of the centrifuge at the end of the process

Olive oil at the end of the process

Olive oil is the only mechanically recovered oil in large scale production, to qualify as extra virgin it should have less than 1% acidity. Almost all olive oil can be blended to qualify as extra virgin but the very best oils have an acidity of 0.01%. Oil sold simply as olive oil is recovered with a solvent from the dried olive paste that comes out of the mill, it is not the same product and lacks the flavour of mechanically recovered oil.

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