Thursday, May 19, 2011

GARANTITO IGP. Rough, and Gentle. Like Oil.

This time Stefano Tesi takes the stand:

There's a Tuscan slang word, a classic term used to descibe a person who is pleasantly irascible and disenchanted, deft and fun in his contrariness, always somewhat arisen from the wrong side of the bed, but never really unpleasant: Scoglionato.

This is perhaps the best adjective with which to describe, at first at least, someone like Giancarlo Giannini, olive oil maker in Vitiano, not far from Castiglion Fiorentino in the Province of Arezzo. It's up to you to decided if he was born this way or became so because of the profession he chose. A profession that, I add, is perfect for "exasperating" the professional.

The competence and passion with which he spoke of oil (and not just his, a good sign!) and the olive oil business sin general made a good impression upon me from the outset.

But I wasn't familiar with the company. I tasted his oil rather carelessly, but snapped to attention, gathered some samples without saying much else, took them home and tasted them following the textbook rules. And finding my initial impressions confirmed.

By now convinced, yesterday morning bright and early I opened a 10-cc mini-can (a parenthesis; though critics don't like them and some DOP regulations, for example that of Chianti Classico, forbid them, I find these containers to be practical, fun, and even elegant) of "Poggio al Vento" and tasted it thoroughly once again. My positive impressions multiplied.

On the nose it displays beautiful balance, with strong fruit at the outset followed by grassy notes that increase, balancing the fruit but never becoming predominant; they confer a feeling of fragrance and liveliness, and round in the finish, becoming almost sweet, without oversaturating the nostrils or giving those vaguely woody sensations typical of Tuscan extravirgin oils.

On the palate the impressions of roundness and balance continue, expanding continuing at length with an interweaving of sweetness and slight deft bitterness, which only after many seconds prevails, bringing a feeling of freshness that brings to mind, say, freshly cut radicchio.

No defects, obviously. To the contrary a general richness and pleasant feelings that remain on the palate for many minutes, with a nice ripe fruit finish that never descends into pungency.

Excellent, in short. There was enough to want to know more, so I did.

This is Toscana IGP Extravirgin oil; it's organic (certified by Suolo & Salute), and is pressed from Moraiolo, Frantoio, Leccino, Raggiale, and about 15% other cultivars, harvested by hand from 30 hectares (about 75 acres) of proprietary terraced olive groves at elevations between 300 and 600 meters in the Communes of Arezzo and Castiglion Fiorentino. The groves, Giovanni says, are fertilized with bi-annual green manuring with no use of chemicals. The olives are pressed in the company's press, a continuous cycle Alfa Laval. Production is on the order of 150 quintals per year. And in 2011 he came in second at 'Ercole Olivario an was awarded a "Gran Menzione" at Sol di Verona.

It's simple up to here. Then you look at the can on the table and read, "Poggio al Vento." Fine. However, immediately thereafter you see a picture of Gianni with a bottle of extravirgin olive oil labeled "Vipiano" in his hand. You visit the site and discover the farm is located in Vitiano, with a T, and are totally confused. So you ask Giancarlo.

"It's easy," says he. "The farm is called Vitiano, but we couldn't call the oil Vitiano because Vitiano is also a place name and the regulations prohibit the use of place names. The easiest solution seemed to be changing a consonant, so the name sounds almost the same." Ah. And Poggio al Vento? "The same oil, with a different label. I've got five or six different labels," he says with a grin. Why? Doesn't that create confusion? "It's a solution," he says. We export to Germany, Switzerland, the US, Denmark, Japan, Belgium and Holland. They all wanted exclusivity, and I didn't know what to do. So to give them their exclusives I came up with different names. The same thing happens here in Arezzo, every shopkeeper wanted to be the only one with my oil on his shelves -- no competition that way. So I satisfied them; different labels but the oil is all the same."

Pragmatism, Arezzo Style.

If you were looking to understand the Tuscan term "scoglionato," now you know.

Those who go directly to the press can purchase Gianni's oil (you pick the label) for 6.5 Euros per half-liter bottle, or 12 for a full liter.

Azienda Agraria e Frantoio Giancarlo Giannini
Località Vitiano 229, 52100 Arezzo
Tel 0575/979599 - cell. 335/333125 - fax 0575/97096

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

We Are:
Carlo Macchi
Kyle Phillips
Luciano Pignataro
Roberto Giuliani
Stefano Tesi

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