There’s a bit of a phenomenon in our house lately. Everyone is all about olive oil. What was once an every day pantry staple has been elevated to a culinary treat that exceeds, say, chocolate chip cookies or Reese cups (it is the Halloween season, after all). Instead of reaching for sweets and guilty pleasures, all of us are nipping bits of olive oil on a baguette when we need a little something.
It started with a delivery from Ricasoli, a Chianti Classico producer with an ancient history dating back to 1141. We received a media sample of Castello di Brolio, Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2015, a release Ricasoli calls “iconic,” a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. With it came a bottle of Castello di Brolio Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP Chianti Classico 2018. This was the bottle that did it.
The Chianti Classico extra-virgin olive oil DOP (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) is in Tuscany and follows the boundaries of the Chianti Classico wine region (Castellina in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti, Greve in Chianti, Radda in Chianti and parts of Barberino Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Poggibonsi, San Casciano in Val di Pesa and Tavarnelle Val di Pesa). Ricasoli is situated in Gaiole in Chianti and all of the vineyards and groves for are located within the denomination.
At the time the sample arrived, we were hosting an exchange student from Germany. Our guest has Sicilian roots, his mother being from the island. He said they had their own family olive grove and went direct for their supply of oil. This from Ricasoli, he said, could rival it. So we had him hooked too.
Night after night we’d drizzle a bit here and there, for meals and snacking, and we all pretty much focused on how good it was, and how we could get more. We paired it with our guest’s homemade dish that was similar to a Sicilian Shakshuka, but with the eggs scrambled in. I still need the recipe to make it like he did, which as a hit.
The olive harvest at Ricasoli Castello Brolio. Photo Credit: Ricasoli
Castello di Brolio Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP Chianti Classico 2018
Peroxide value: 317 meq O2/lt
Polyphenols: 415 mg/100ml
Vitamin E: 27.6 mg/lt
I’ve actually visited several olive producers in California. I’ve toured groves and experienced production from large, commercial outfits to super-small releases from family wineries. But being in California, the history isn’t quite the same as a long look at old world olives. So I did a little research (with my olive oil-obsessed, history-obsessed 17 year old son) and olive cultivation in Italy is actually quite fascinating.
Olives were a good agricultural staple, if you lived in the old days: they could be grown in stony ground, they were nutritious and they had hefty caloric value. Plus, the oil had more than culinary significance—it could be used for skincare and for lighting. It could be stored and exported relatively well too, so it had commercial potential. In the Christian world (including Tuscany, where Chianti is) olive oil also has religious value as an anointing oil.
However, olive trees (and grape vines) don’t produce crops right away, like corn that offers a harvest the very year it is planted. In other words, a grove is an investment in both money and time. And another thing: if your grove is cut down or burned, it would need to be replanted and the process would have to unfold once again. So if your enemies destroyed your farm, it wasn’t like cereal crops that could be restarted immediately the next year.
Now there’s little worry that the groves at Ricasoli will be ravaged, but that’s not to say that they don’t need protection. In Puglia, south of Tuscany, a disease is damaging olive trees en mass. The 2018 olive harvest output in Italy was the lowest in 25 years, with extreme weather to blame: summer droughts, fall floods and spring freezes. And while not in Italy, my 2018 visit to The Groves on 41 in Paso Robles revealed that there would be no harvest that year because the delicate blooms had been burned off in a spring heat wave, preventing any olives from forming. Just like all life on Earth, olive trees thrive in certain conditions and should that environment be damaged or changed, life is impacted.
Italian Wine, Food and Travel
This month our writers’ group (ItalianFWT) focuses on Tuscan wine, food and travel is Tuscany and nearby neighbors.
You are invited to join our chat on Twitter at #ItalianFWT on Saturday, Nov. 2 at 10am CDT to visit virtually with these authors as we discover these topics:
- A taste of Tuscany without leaving home by My Full Wine Glass
- Arugula and Shrimp Pizza with an Olive Oil Drizzle and a Ricasoli Chianti Classico by A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Can’t Serve Chianti Without Olive Oil here on L’Occasion
- Castello di Brolio Olio e Vino: Schiacciata all’Uva + 2015 Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Chianti Classico Reaches New Heights: Reflections on the 2019 Anteprima from Avvinare
- Exploring Castello di Brolio & On location pairings from the home of Chianti Classico from Somm’s Table
- Garlic Broccoli Pasta with Italian Olive Oil from Cooking Chat
- Gran Selezione: Pinnacle of the Chianti Classico Ladder? from Food Wine Click
- Guazzetto Paired with Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Gran Selezione Castello di Brolio from Enofylz Wine Blog
- New Discoveries On The Rich Tuscan Wine Map from Grapevine Adventure
- Ricasoli Chianti Paired with Tomatoes 3 Ways from Asian Test Kitchen
- Shrimp Marinara Wine Pairing . . . from Maremma Toscano #Italian FWT by Steven’s Wine and Food Blog
- Tasting Tuscany: Tuna, Beans, EVOO, Chianti, Vermentino by Wine Predator
- Traditional Italian Soup Paired with Chianti Classico from Always Ravenous
- Tuscan Temptations: Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2016 with Grilled Chicken Sausage Ragu over Polenta Muffin from Grape Experiences
As mentioned, the wine and olive oil mentioned in this article were media samples, but all options are my own.