Thursday, November 10, 2011

Garantito IGP: Stefano's Oil and The "Crazy Idea"

This time Carlo Macchi takes the stand:

Valpolicella, three days of tastings, more than 200 Amaroni and Valpolicella Ripasso wines to judge. Obviously, you also organize a few afternoon cellar visits, the problem being that over the years you've visited and revisited most everyone, and there's not much new to discover. Glancing over last year's results, I note a winemaker I don't know yet. We ask the folks at the Valpolicella Consorzio to make the appointment; they're happy to do so and add, "Taste their oil. It's great!" The director of the Consorzio gives us the same advice, as do two other winemakers we visit.

While it's raining cats and dogs, I make the crazy decision to dedicate our visit primarily to the oil. For a Tuscan, who has in his X chromosome the X of eXtravirgin olive oil, and grew up in the stomping grounds of the Leccino, Frantoio and Moraiolo cultivars, to visit the cellars of a Valpolicella winery and devote most of the time to an oil born of the "renowned" Grignano and Casaliva cultivars is plain crazy.

And here we are, on a dark and stormy night, raining questions upon Stefano Pizzighella, who -- truth be told -- was hoping for this. While he talks about his olives, planted on the hills of the Mezzane area (hills he has wandered for years, hunting hare, wild boar and deer), he shows us his press, where the olives picked during the day are pressed under nitrogen. The production is so limited that he's going to have to replace the new ultramodern filtration unit because it's too large, going back to the old one, little bigger than a kitchen stool. While the winds howl and buffet outside Stefano stops being surprised at the barrage of queries on pitting, acidity, storage, decanter use, and so on, and opens up.

It was an extraordinary evening, and the crazy idea of talking about oil in the Valpolicella turned out to be one of the best I've had in a long time.

Not that the wines Stefano and his wife, Giulietta dal Bosco, make under the Le Guaite label aren't good, quite the contrary! But to taste oils that are more than a year old and still display clean artichoke (that's an exclusively Tuscan aroma!!! The Tuscanocentric part of my personality cried), freshly cut grass, fig leaves, and so on is without doubt fascinating. Tuscan that I am, I couldn't help but ask the question that all extravirgin olive oil producers fear to ask themselves: "Considering that if all goes really well 100 kilos of olives will yield 12 kilos of oil, or perhaps more probably 6-7, what are your costs?"

This is the breakpoint for quality extravirgin olive oil, the oil people say they want but then find too expensive. Stefano's reply, "around 45-50 Euros," leads us to a market that accepts only on paper the true costs of great oils, be they Tuscan or from the Veneto. Because Stefano's oils are great, regardless of whether one is speaking of oils from pitted olives, from 100% Grignano, or his blend, which at present is as shut tight as a newly bottled Amarone.

Its color, a beautiful slightly cloudy emerald green (he filters his oils immediately, but this had not yet been filtered the second time), and it's fresh, developing chlorophyll aromas give an indication of what the future, say three months from now, will hold.

I of course couldn't help but buy a bottle (at 12.5 Euros for a 750 ml bottle it's not even expensive), to follow its development over the next few months. And in the meantime, I slathered last year's oil, which is still excellent, over bread and dipped raw vegetables into it.

In short, between tasting oil and other things (Ripasso, Superiore, Amarone, Recioto), the hours between 7 and midnight passed in a flash, leaving us with the problem of how to get into the car, burdened as we were by "small but repeated" potions of stewed wild boar, soppressa (the classic salami of the Veneto), and torta sbrisolona.

If the police had stopped me, they would have in any case found more olive oil than wine in my blood. After all, when a "crazy idea" brings you to a "happily crazy" maker of olive oil and wine, this is the least that can happen.

Azienda Agricola Sisure
Di Pizzighella Stefano
Via Capovilla 10/A
Mezzane di Sopra (VR)
Tel-fax 0458880396
info AT sisure DOT it

Published Simultaneously by IGP, I Giovani Promettenti.

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

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