I personally think that in this world when you do what you like for a living you can consider yourself blessed. Professionally I always consider my career a long holiday and sometimes I think I don’t deserve but hey… I’m taking it!
Last week I was asked by a colleague to accompany a few lucky winners of a client’s internal competition to an education trip in Italy. On paper, the journey was a very stressful tight schedule: early flight from Gatwick (waking up at 3.30am), arriving in the south of France, hiring a car, driving 2 hours before lunch, a factory visit, olive oil tasting and finally back to the hotel for dinner.
We arrived at the airport to meet our clients before flying to France. This gave us the chance to break the ice with our clients and to let them know some information about the company we were going to visit. On the plane we all took the opportunity to grab forty winks, which was well deserved after getting up so early.
I have to say that arriving in Nice to find a quite warm breeze and hot sun was quite pleasing. A quick check in at our hotel and we were out, wearing the sun glasses for the first time this year (a very good sensation) and the fatigue that all of us was moaning about a couple of our early simply was melting away under a warm Mediterranean sun.
The journey was quite pleasant, travelling in a very empty motorway through Italy and France, with the changing landscape from a very maritime south of Francet o low mountains as soon as we enter my beloved country. The olive trees started to take over any other form of vegetation and were the only type of tree present around us.
After 2 hours we could see that we were climbing again this time the hill of Imperia destination Pontedassio, I was quite pleased to see that they even bother to raise the British flag in our honour.
We were welcomed by the supplier, who in very characteristic Italian style asked us if we wanted to relax a bit while having a “light lunch.”
Without saying, the light lunch turned out to be a feast; a mixture of very good authentic regional products, including a just picked blue artichoke, to a crispy fried squid, which less than 6 hours earlier was swimming in the sea in front of us, and of course, a sample of all the products they produce for our infused olive oils, tapenades, bruschettes and vinegars.
Our drinks were a couple of white wines produced locally on the family land of a very good quality Pigato wine and one of my favourites, Vermentino.
I have to say that my expectations of the supplier was very different, but to my surprise I found that there was no management bureaucracy but a very committed family running a multi-million pound empire with passion, commitment and dedication. Since creating their first olive oil in 1908, their family have been vital in the promotion of olive oil as a healthy product.
They understood that olive oil had therapeutic properties in addition to nutritional properties and created a pharmaceutical division which developed remarkably until the end of the 1980s. During that time the company acquired important know-how aimed at rigorous quality control, research and development and the management of the test lab which is still operating today:
In 1940 in Oneglia, the Company started conquering the market thanks to its genuine products. Very few people worked so passionate with dedication and enthusiasm. This approach has been implemented over the years working silently in order to achieve a better product.
During those years, Oneglia was considered the World capital of oil: the port and railway yards of the small provincial town were the origin of approximately 30% of the Italian oil production exported world wide.
In 1991 they transferred the company from the Oneglia old factory to Pontedassio about 5 km away from the sea, located in the Impero valley, characterised by hills featuring silver greens grows(taggiasca olive) dominating the picturesque Mediterranean bush and scrub.
A tour of the new factory is striking not only for the passion and compliance with the ancient oil production methods, but also for the care taken in dealing with the minimum aesthetic details of corporate premises: olive trees decorate the company garden like a carved monument, two ancient oil mills dating back to the1600s were carefully restored and today are fully operational and jars of any shape and origin bear witness to the will to keep alive the history of the people and the trade that has been revolving around olives trees and their fruit.
Today’s works are the result of constant renewal, mirroring the radical transformation of the whole oil production sector, where the ancient oil mills a mere token of the past, superseded by modern equipment for the mechanical pressing of olives according to the “cold pressing” method.
Tradition is completed by avant garde technology managing and regulating the various processing stages: from the place where the oil is stored to the boiling lines. Each production process was designed to prevent the molecular structure of the oil and fully comply with the ancient production methods.
In the past, the quality checking used to be entrusted to only the most experienced ”tasting master”, whose assessment is still vital and highly valued.Today it is complemented by state-of-the-art analytical equipment ensuring the selection of the best raw material and the integrity and preservation of all the natural features of the end product. As always, the olives tree and its fruit are the starting point.
The taggiasca olive tree is very sturdy and mainly disseminated in the western area of the Liguria region. Mainly in the Imperia province, where it’s actually the only species. It is not by chance that the company owns over 10 000 trees in the area.
The peculiarity of the taggiasca oil, allegedly the finest world in the world, is its lightness, due to the low acidity and the fruitiness and sweetness of the flavour.
It’s the best choice for those who prefer delicate taste and it is suggested to cook and season fresh delicate products like fish or seasonal greens.
Posted by Alessandro Cristiano Head of Food