Oils, Wine, and Cultural Preferences
Travel. Travel a lot. It is great fun. When you get to travel for your business and get to eat your way through France and Italy, go for it.
Mark and I just returned from Europe where we tasted our way down the Rhone River in Provence, France then into the Northern and Central part of Italy. Not to worry, everyone walks a lot in Europe so putting on the pounds is not part of the deal. Enjoy the pleasure of long leisurely lunches and dinners so well perfected in Europe. Enjoy the cultural differences. That is why you travel.
French oils and French food
France has been making olive oil for a very long time. It is steeped in history, culture, lore, and food. As in many countries the olive producers take their growing very seriously. They rely on their grandfathers to tell them how to prune, when to feed their trees, and when to pick the olives at just the right time to produce their lovely oils. The French varieties are unique. We grow only three here at IL Fiorello: Aglandau, Boutellian, and Tanche. Other French varietals are Collumella, Grossane, Lucques, Picholine, Languedoc, and Salonenque. But history aside, French olive oil producers are transitioning from stone wheels and augers to press their oils to a more sophisticated method using a centrifuge. The stone wheels, according to a French grower, produce a more mild oil. But that may also be because they tend to harvest late, when the olives are riper. So there are many variables in the equation of producing fine olive oils. The French seem to prefer a milder, elegant oil with a slight fusty taste. Culturally, this is important since “Grandfather” determined when to pick and when to take the harvest to the mill. If olives are picked over a few days’ time some of the first picked olives will begin to ferment leading to the attribute/defect of “fusty”. This type of flavor has been paired with French cooking for a very long time. Culturally, this is how they love their oils and food.
We served our French oil at our French Provencal cooking class on June 29 and again at our release Bastille Day celebration of our wines and French oil on July 13. IL Fiorello turned French on that weekend. Come and try the French oils and compare them to our Mission and Italian varieties.
Italian oils and Italian foods
Italy has been producing beautiful olive oil for a millennium. The Greeks and Romans used oil for food, as well as for anointment during competitive sports and religious events. Each area of Italy has its own food preferences and makes its own oil to pair with the foods. Climate and historical preferences dictate what is grown in each area. Great Grandfather gives the direction, Great Grandmother right behind him. Do not go against their preferences or experience. Mid (Tuscany) to Southern (Sicily) Italy grow olives because of the climate. Each area has developed its own food specialties and preferences. Parma has ham. Modena has Balsamic vinegar. Cherasco has snails. Bra has its own particular cheese, named after the river Tenero; Bra Tenero (fresh) and Bra Duro (hard). Liguria, on the Italian Riviera, grows Taggiasca olives. They are harvested late and the oil is buttery and mild. We grow Taggiasca here at IL Fiorello but we plan to harvest earlier than in Italy, because we like the beautiful fruit aromas of the earlier harvest.
The most commonly known Italian varieties are Frantoio, Leccino, Moraiolo, Maurino, and Pendolino. Each also has synonyms, Frantoio is also known as Razzo, or Correggiolo. Each area may name its trees by the great, great grandfather that settled in the area. Cultural preferences are indicative of the preferences and history of the area. Italy has been growing olives and fruit and vegetables for thousands of years and each area is very proud of their produce. I love going to the farmers markets where each vendor can give you a dissertation about their growing practices. No snack food at these markets! Eating is serious business eating in Italy. Many conversations are about what everyone is preparing for dinner, what they had for dinner and what they are planning for tomorrow. It is spectacular to hear the devotion and respect for food.
Festivals abound around food, wine, and religion. Wine is also specific to the growing area, the soil, the wind, rain, and growing practices. Both Italy and France serve wine as a condiment with meals. It is just part of everyday life. We often choose the house wine wherever we eat. Often this is the family’s own wine, or a particular preference by the Chef. Listen to their recommendations, they really know how to pair food and wine. Each region celebrates their hard work and their food. Wonderful, wonderful eating and experiences.
We should respect Farmers markets here in California with the fervor and anticipation the way Europeans respect theirs. It is all about food, food preparation, and eating seasonally. Eat fresh, eat well, and eat good food, with respect to the growers.
Respect cultural differences, enjoy traveling and continue to taste everything. A whole new world will be open to you.
Ann and Mark