I had the pleasure of sipping oil at a coffeehouse last week with a fellow called Mike George and his partner Nathalie Bellegarde. And I’m not talking about that subpar stuff that lines the supermarket shelves. This was small batch, single origin, cold extracted evoo, from the olive trees farmed by Mike’s uncle Jean and from groves around his property, 30 kilometres due north of Rome. So not just olives sourced from a single country, but from a single region. Pretty precious stuff.
The oil I sampled was from a second harvest of riper olives. Slurped by the spoonful, it had those beginning bitter notes, a distinct pepperiness, then a mellowness, and an almost buttery finish. Mostly, though, it was clean and bright tasting, with good fruity flavour. And it came with a story… which makes everything taste better.
Mike George’s French Canadian grandfather moved to Rome to serve the United Nations as an FAO economist. His kids returned to Montreal for university, and all moved back to Italy except for Mike’s mum. Young Mike, who grew up in Montreal, and now lives in Ottawa, would summer in Riano, next to Sacrofano, visiting his grandparents, and playing with his cousins in the olive groves.
His uncle Jean has been making olive oil for decades, from the 75 year old trees on his property, pressed by centrifuge to control the aromatics, at a community mill 20 kms from the farm, and owned by Jean’s friend. It’s a hobby for uncle Jean. For Mike, it’s a budding business, and he’s keen to introduce the oil he buys direct from the mill, to discerning chefs and food shops in his hometown.
The Early 2016 Harvest (October, 0.3% acidity) is now sold out. He has the milder “Farmers’ Harvest” (November, 0.4% acidity) left, but is delighted to take orders for next year’s pressing!
What you want to see on the label is all there: proof of acidity and origin, plus harvest date (olives are crushed within 72 hours of picking, and all olives are picked within Sacrofano region.)