Veronelli’s olive oil manifesto

Posts from my September Friuli trip continue…

Friuli isn’t the first region that comes to mind when you think of great Italian-raised extra-virgin olive oil. In fact, very little olive oil is produced there (later in this series I will be posting on the tiny subzone of Friuli where higher winter temperatures make the cultivation of olive trees for fine olive oil possible).

“It’s just too cold here during the winter,” said the lovely Ornella Venica when we sat down for lunch at her family’s estate. Winter freezes, not uncommon in this most northeastern region of Italy, can kill the trees, she explained, making it virtually impossible for her family’s estate to produce fine olive oil there.

Determined to make great olive oil, her husband Gianni and one of his business partners launched the estate’s Terre di Balbia program in 2001 in Calabria, where they grow olives for their family’s olive oil and bottle estate-grown Magliocco and Gaglioppo.

The Venica family became early undersigners of Luigi’s Veronelli’s 2001 “Olive Oil Manifesto” (you can download a PDF version of the manifesto at the movement’s official website).

Publisher, writer, editor, and gourmet Luigi Veronelli, for those of you unfamiliar with his legacy, was the architect of Italy’s current food and wine renaissance. His early catalogs of the wines of Italy (first published in the early 1980s) and his restaurant and food guides reshaped the map of Italian food and wine, domestically and abroad (Veronelli appears often here at Do Bianchi, most recently in this post).

The manifesto is extensive and meticulous, but the basic concepts of l’olio secondo Veronelli (“oil according to Veronelli,” i.e., Veronelli’s “vision” of olive oil) can be distilled as follows: 1) no-chemical farming; 2) quick pressing of the fruit in situ 3) depittting of the olive oil before pressing; 4) exclusive pressing and bottling of individual cultivars, i.e., olive varieties (the section on how to clean the press to avoid cultivar contamination is impressive); 5) detailed labeling, including the mono-cultivar, “vintage,” and provenance; 6) exclusive packaging in glass bottles. There’s a lot more to it, but the basic concepts are these.

The oil? FANTASTIC… Venica & Venica is not the only producer-member of the Veronelli movement but I have been unable to find a comprehensive list of all the members.

In case you were wondering what we ate for lunch that day: roast pork shank with kren and fresh greens.

And we drank a 2005 Venica & Venica Refosco, which I had never had the opportunity to taste. Chewy and earthy and sooooooo good…

Venica and its current generation Giampaolo Venica will be appearing in an upcoming post in this series. Giampaolo was one of the most fascinating persons I met on the trip and we became fast friends. Stay tuned…

One thought on “Veronelli’s olive oil manifesto

  1. Very exciting topic. I’m glad you addressed it, as there’s seems to be little acknowledgement in the English-speaking world of these cutting-edge oils.

    From what I’ve been able to taste, the quality impact of the Veronelli approach is really revolutionary. The depitting of olives is a major technological breakthrough. It adds depth and length to the flavour, and the oils keep better. I’ve recently visited the Comincioli estate on Garda Lake. The extraction system they set up is truly space technology. From the moment the olives arrive to the mill (within 30mins from machine-picking) there is no oxygen access at any time until you open a finished bottle of oil. And the whole process takes less than 80mins. In 2009 Comincioli produced a 100% Casaliva cultivar oil that reached 616mg polyphenols which is likely the world record (and surely a record for Italy).

    A list of Olio Secondo Veronelli producers is here, though I think it’s not exhaustive (Planeta of Sicily are also participating, and there is 1 producer from Sardinia). Veronelli’s poignant manifesto is a must read. All the Veronelli oils I sampled were mindblowing, but the best of the best is made by Felsina in Tuscany IMHO.

    For those interested, the best source of info on quality olive oil is professional oil taster Marco Oreggia: his website is here, and he also publishes an annual book titled Flos Olei that also covers with non-Italian oils.

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