“l’Olio Nuovo” has finally arrived!
As always, the 2020 harvesting season ends with the bottling of Gagliole’s extra virgin olive oil.
In what has been a difficult year, our oil, as well as our wine, has been a great success thanks to the dedicated work of everyone who devotes their heart and soul to the cultivation of the products our land delivers.
Tullio Chimini works and lives at Gagliole. Tullio is a tractor driver and gardener and cares for the la Valletta estate in Panzano. Since 2012 he has been our dedicated expert on the production of our Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Now that the season has come to an end, we’ve taken a little time to find out from Tullio what goes into the production of a bottle of Gagliole extra virgin Olive Oil.
How was the harvest this year?
The warm October temperatures caused a rapid veraison (colour change) process, but ripening did not follow at the same pace. Therefore, we had to postpone the start of the harvest by at least two weeks. Fortunately, when we finally began, the weather was stable and allowed us to finish in a perfect time frame. I am very happy with the end result, even though it has been a difficult year.
At what point in the production do you discern the quality of the Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Is it the same as with grapes that hint at their quality, even when still in the vineyard?
Unfortunately not, we can simply enhance the trees, but the final result is only clear at the end of the pressing. The colour itself is not an indicator of the exact assessment of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The aroma is much more important.
What are the identifying aromas you look for?
Particular characteristics of Gagliole oil are artichoke, fresh almonds, tomato leaves and cut grass. These aromas all deliver through taste; and just as important is the distinctive piquancy of our oil, that demonstrates the quality and craftsmanship of the product.
Tullio, you have been looking after our oil for 8 years, but what does it mean to be responsible for its production?
Work on the olive trees actually lasts all year round. In the spring, we have to prune to ensure good olive production and make harvesting easier, after that we must fertilise the trees and keep their environment clean, then we cut the grass in all the olive groves. If necessary, we treat the trees with copper or kaolin – natural products that protect the tree and its fruit. Harvesting usually begins between mid-October and the beginning of November.
This is when our oil mill and I come in.
The first olives are harvested in the morning and arrive at the Gagliole oil mill at around 1.00 p.m. Then the milling begins and can last until late into the night. Everything that’s harvested must be pressed on the same day to obtain the maximum quality and freshness from the olives.
In the evening, when we have extracted the oil, it is immediately filtered to remove any impurities or particles that might contaminate it.
Once you have filtered the oil is it ready for sale?
Not quite – we have four different olive groves here at Gagliole, all with their own characteristics and peculiarities. We try to obtain the best blends from the four different groves by selecting the best batches of oil. Each area has a particular quality. My job is like that of an oenologist – trying to bring out the aromas and flavour of our Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the best possible way.
This year, for example, we harvested olives from the “Galluzzo” area for the first time, where we discovered a specific variety of olive tree known as “Leccio del Corno”. From the first pressing, we immediately realised that this cultivar could produce an extraordinary product.
The olive grove in Panzano, on the other hand, is referred to as a “legacy”, after the 1985 big freeze, which affected 90% of Tuscan olive trees, and resulted in new tree varieties having to be found.
To identify the best clone, Professor Fontanazza of the University of Perugia, Head of Research at the CNR (National Research Council) and specialist in the field of olive growing, was invited to La Valletta. Today, our extremely cold-resistant trees are the result of the clones developed by Professor Fontanazza.
Is all the Extra Virgin Olive Oil bottled and sold?
The Chianti Classico region maintains an ancient tradition that has been handed down for centuries – olive pickers are paid in extra virgin olive oil. Oil is part of our culture and an integral part of our diet. The pickers are often retired people who gladly come to gather the olives so that they have excellent olive oil for the whole year to come while awaiting the new harvest!
In 2012 Gagliole replaced the old press mill with a continuous cycle mill from Mori Team. Since then, there has been a considerable improvement in the oil as the mill is now equipped with the latest technology. The estate’s mill guarantees total control of the production cycle and, in combination with organic techniques and skilful management of the plant, produces a unique oil.