Italian flavors: Vulture Oil
- WTI Magazine #113 Mar 15, 2019
Native to Asia Minor, the legendary olive tree spread to Italy through the Greek colonisers. Later, the Romans promoted the cultivation of these valuable and versatile fruits in every land they conquered, perfecting the tools for pressing oils and the techniques for storing the oil.
The evidence of the presence of olive cultivation in Vulture is ancient: there are references to these practices in works from 65 B.C by way of the celebrated Latin poet Horace, who was born in Venosa and was a citizen of Vulture.
On Vulture’s originally volcanic hills, the olive has proved to be a precious crop. This historical plant with twisted roots and an imposing trunk provides humans with essential nutrition and wood to burn or shape. It creates landscapes of astonishing beauty and is a valuable aid for consolidating land.
In this area, characterised by agriculture dedicated almost entirely to subsistence cultivation, in ancient times, oil was one of the few saleable products able to provide an income for the farmers. They quickly learned to refine the qualities of this product to better satisfy the tastes and demands of the buyers.
So it was that the typical cultivar of the region, the Ogliarola del Vulture, was selected over time. Though it doesn’t produce very high yields, it provides excellent quality oil with a sweet and balanced taste.
The product specification for olio extravergine di oliva Vulture DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) carefully regulates the stages of olive cultivation, from the harvest to pressing of the olives and preservation of the resulting product and its chemical and organoleptic characteristics, thereby helping to maintain the high standards of quality already attained.
Now, thanks to the efficiency of the production chain and the spirit of collaboration that animates those involved, the area that produces olio extravergine di oliva Vulture DOP is preparing to meet and address the challenges of the third millennium with the tenacity and skill the inhabitants of this land have always been known for.
Vulture DOP is clear with an amber yellow colour and green hues. Its fragrance is medium fruity with a sweet nougat flavour that is slightly bitter with a faint hint of spice. Made by pressing olives that are selected, washed and freshly pressed, this oil retains the fragrant aroma of the fruit.
The cultivation of olive groves to produce Vulture DOP oil is carried out in a traditional manner: the trees are pruned by hand and the plant protection complies with the specifications for the integrated pest management in the Region of Basilicata.
Weeds are only combatted using mechanical processes and chemical weed killers are not used. The harvest takes place in the months of November and December, by hand, by stripping or brushing the branches, or mechanically, using harvesters and shakers.
Olives that naturally fall to the ground may not be harvested and the use of chemicals to encourage the olives to fall is also forbidden.The olives are transported to the olive mill on the same day they harvested in slotted plastic crates that can hold up to 25 Kg of olives, or in slotted plastic bins that can hold up to 400 kg of olives.
The olives are washed and then pressed within 24 hours of being picked, and only mechanical processes can be used for this. The oil is stored in rooms with little light in stainless steel tanks, where the storage temperature does not go above 18°C or below 10°C.
The local area
Vulture DOP is made on the slopes of Monte Vulture, an ancient inactive volcano located in northwest Basilicata, on the border with Campania and Puglia.
The area that produces Vulture DOP is located in northwestern Basilicata, in the municipalities of Melfi, Rapolla, Barile, Atella, Rionero in Vulture, Maschito, Ginestra, Ripacandida and Venosa.
The Vulture region is characterised by charming natural landscapes, but it also preserves many vestiges of its glorious history: there are remains of settlements dating back to the Palaeolithic Era, though the centres of the area underwent periods of splendour in Roman times and during Swabian rule in the Middle Ages.
Within the deeply historical location, a great form of agriculture developed to feed the resident population and the illustrious guests who visited it in the past, and the production of oil became increasingly important.
The olive groves occupy the south-east facing slopes of Monte Vulture up to the altitude in which the climatic conditions allow the olives to survive, and in this way they benefit from the effects of the sun while Monte Vulture protects them against the cold northern winds.
The production zone is uniform in terms of its soils, which are all of volcanic origin, its homogenous microclimate and the presence of a particular variety of local olive: Ogliarola del Vulture.
The oil is also mainly bottled in the Vulture area to ensure it can be checked and traced to keep the qualities of the product from changing.
Consorzio di tutela Olio extravergine DOP Vulture