How the World’s Finest Olive Oil is Made

Yesterday, we had an extensive tour of the three olive oil mills at the farmhouse, one of which dates back to the 16th century. Our guide, Giacomo, the farm manager, is from the Bodini Gattai family that has owned and run this working farm for generations.

Giacomo began his tour by showing us the tiny olives beginning to grow at this time of year in Regello, “the land of olive oil.” The olives, traditionally picked by hand, are now are planted in even rows and harvested by machines that grab the trunk and gently shake it, freeing the olives into nets that capture them for processing.

Giacomo walked us through huge underground cellars, teaching us about the machinery that was used in the past—and that is being used now—to produce some of the finest quality olive oil in this region and in the world.

The tour ended with a tasting of the finished organic extra virgin olive oil. And in between, we learned about the history of olive oil production—both its traditions and the innovations that have brought the industry into the modern day.

Be sure to look at all the photos and read the captions to learn more of how it’s done.

Our wonderful tour guide
This is how the olives look now in Mid-June. This is one of 15,000 olive trees on this farm: 120 acres of olive trees. The leaves look silver in winter, green like this in spring.
“What do you feed the olives?” Someone in our group asked.
“Lots of love,” was the reply.
This is how the olives will look at full maturity when they’re harvested next October. In mid-October they’ll start pressing this year’s crop of pure extra virgin olive oil. The olives are crushed the day they’re picked so they don’t mature or soften, making the oil more bitter. In a good year, 100 kilos of olives produces 20 kilos of oil. In season, the production happens 24 hours a day.
This is how they used to crush the olives. The process is still basically the same, but the equipment is all different now.
This is how they extruded the oil in the old days.
This modern machine extracts the leaves and washes the olives.
This weighs the olives.
This is the crusher.
Italians do talk with their hands.
This separator removes all the water.
This was a failed batch of balsamic vinegar. It smelled strong!
These terra cotta jars, used in the old days, had to be regularly scrubbed from the inside or the oil would leak through like this.
Now we get to taste it. Giacomo instructed us, “Put a bit on the tip of your tongue, when the oil is brand new, you can smell the grass. Slowly send it to the back of your mouth to warm the bouquet. You’ll taste the woodiness of the pit on your tongue and as you swallow, you’ll taste the spice.”
“Bread is the best way to enjoy it. But taking it straight is the best way to enjoy it.”

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