Between tales and legends, the “green gold” of Tuscany, the extra-virgin olive oil IGP, is winning more and more recognition as well as the hearts of starred chefs and international superstars.
Divine nectar for the Greeks, a symbol of purity for the Romans, and a miraculous remedy for Middle Eastern peoples, extra virgin olive oil has a very ancient history that traces its roots to the 5th century BC, when the first oil mills date back. From there until today, this wonderful product has successfully entered the kitchens of the best restaurants in the world and, as a pillar of the Mediterranean diet, has even been declared part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Not laurel or palm, but the quiet olive oil,
sends mercy to me, and clears up time
and dries up crying, and still wants me to be alive.
(Francesco Petrarca, poet)
With more than 400 oil mills scattered throughout the territory, and as many as 43 olive growers awarded with the highest recognition of the Guida Oli d’Italia by Gambero Rosso, Tuscany is at the top of the Italian ranking thanks to a territory and climate perfect for the cultivation of olive trees that give life to a product with unique organoleptic characteristics.
The great Tuscan olive-growing tradition owes its development to the soil reclamation that the Medici family implemented in the mid-1500s, allowing production to expand benefiting from new previously unusable territories. To date, there are almost 80,000 companies employed in the sector, including both large and small producers.
Three main cultivars (variety of plants) that characterize Tuscan oil are Leccino, the most popular one with a delicate and fresh flavor, Frantoio, spicier and slightly bitter, perfect to accompany strong tastes and grilled meats, and Moraiolo which stands out for its peppery notes that smell of artichoke and almond and go well with traditional dishes, such as legumes and soups.
Since the late nineties, Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil has been protected by a Consortium for the promotion of extra-virgin olive oil which regulates its origin, production and marketing, ensuring its quality to the final consumer through the IGP brand. In the region, we find eight sub-zones and four DOP certified ones in the areas of Chianti Classico, Terre di Siena, Lucca and Seggiano.
The olive harvest normally takes place between October and November and each mill offers the possibility of organizing guided tours with tastings, often in combination with other typical Tuscan products. A wonderful opportunity for a small tour of the magnificent Tuscan towns that, also in Autumn, offers glimpses and sunsets of unparalleled beauty!
Among castles, oil mills and historic houses, we would like to suggest some of the best producers where you can taste true excellence. Among the most famous ones, we find Laudemio Frescobaldi, the haute couture of the extra virgin olive oils, to be tasted in one of the many properties of the noble Florentine family; Peppoli by Marchesi Antinori, produced in the homonymous estate in the Chianti area, or Laudemio Podere La Costa, flagship of the Castle of Poppiano owned by Count Guicciardini.
The Castle of Fonterutoli, where a fabulous Chianti Classico DOP oil is produced, is also worth a visit. Not far away, in Gaiole, we find also the Castle of Meleto, a medieval fortress dating back to 1256 surrounded by vineyards and olive trees, where you can try an exceptional organic Tuscan IGP.
For further information, we suggest you check the websites of the individual estates.
According to an ancient legend, the olive tree was born from Athena’s spear which, inserted in a rock, gave birth to a “magical” plant capable of healing wounds, illuminating the night and feeding people. Faced with a creation of such beauty, Zeus rewarded the Goddess by baptizing Athens with her name and giving her the role of protector of the city.