Today we’re talking about capers from Pantelleria, tiny but very rich in flavour. But there’s more, we’ll also discover caper berries, caper leaves and the caper production farm that brings Pantelleria’s tradition to the world. Ready to go?
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TUSCAN OIL AS SEEN THROUGH THE EYES OF FRANCI OIL MILL
Tuscan extra virgin olive oil is an excellent product; it is the result of hard work, love and wisdom and Franci oil mill is well aware of that. The story of this oil mill is exemplary and shows how worthy this precious golden nectar is to us Italians. Olive oil differs from region to region; a Tuscan olive oil is completely different from an olive oil from Apulia. Olive trees are different, as well as the climate, the harvesting method and the milling.
Sometimes, oils can differ even within the same region, according to the area of production; keeping this in mind, the new generation leading Frantoio Franci oil mill now produces only prime-quality Tuscan oil. Let’s take a look at their story.
The number one specialty of Tuscany
Tuscan extra virgin olive oil is the most famous specialty of our region. Not only because it is ever-present in every kitchen and on every table throughout the region, but also because its use has spread all over the country and all over the world. This being said, do people really know what high-quality oil is?
This is exactly what Giorgio - the son of Fernando Franci who founded the company together with his brother Franco in the ‘50s - asked himself. In the past, this oil mill used to sell their products directly to customers, but in the 90s their targets changed. From that moment onward, they focused on offering high quality standards and selecting their products, so that their customers could enjoy a consistent high quality over time- something that not many people could offer.
To produce high-quality Tuscan oil, Franci oil mill carried out a research on its terroir - something that it’s common for wine production - exploring the relationship between the territory and olive groves. It is worth noting that the oils that do not meet the sensory characteristics and chemical parameters targets defined by the company are downgraded; this goes to show how important the quality of their products is for the company.
It is a brave choice that shows how much integrity and passion this oil mill pours into the production of this one-of-a-kind Tuscan specialty.
foto credits: Frantoio Franci
Tuscan oil production: cultivation and culture
The Tuscan landscape is scattered with olive trees. The olive tree is, together with the cypress, the most iconic plant of our countryside. You can see many of them in the Orcia valley, where the Franci oil mill is located. The most common cultivars in Tuscany are Leccino and Moraiolo.
Oil production is deeply tied not only to the territory, but also to local traditions. Work in the oil mill follows the seasons; harvesting, which takes place from the end of October until the beginning of November, is the most tiring task because everything is carried out by hand. Only industrial production companies use machines with mechanical arms that shake the tree branches to make the olives fall on big nets placed on the ground.
Although Frantoio Franci oil mill exports its Tuscan olive oil all over the world, it luckily still employs manual harvesting techniques, so as to preserve trees and olives as much as possible.
Many producers rely on external mills for the pressing process, whereas big companies tend to have private mills. Milling is an essential step which defines the oil sensory properties; that’s why Franci oil mill has its own mill, where they can turn the experience gained throughout the years into incredible oil.
From the olive grove management, to the bottling process, to its consumption: Tuscan oil is an essential part of our region’s culinary identity. Harvesting olives is a ritual, celebrated at the end by eating bread with brand new oil (called fettunta in Tuscany).
foto credits: Frantoio Franci
Villa Magra: a Tuscan oil and its own olive grove
Fedele al futuro che vuole dare all’azienda di famiglia, Giorgio Franci sceglie nel 1996 di iniziare a produrre l’olio toscano “Villa Magra”. Il nome è quello dell’omonimo oliveto da cui provengono tutte le olive utilizzate per produrlo. Olive della varietà Frantoio, Leccino e Moraiolo coltivate in quel preciso pezzo di terreno.
In line with his vision for the future of the company, Giorgio Franci decided to start producing “Villa Magra” Tuscan oil in 1996. This oil bears the same name as the olive grove from which the olives used to produce the oil come from. The olives belonging to the Frantoio, Leccino and Moraiolo varieties are cultivated on that specific plot of land.
The result is a very sophisticated extra virgin olive oil which won several prizes, including the gold medal in the ‘medium fruitiness’ category in the 2019 New York International Olive Oil Competition.
The sensory characteristics of the “Villa Magra” Tuscan oil are as follows:
- Intense fruity perfume
- Nose: artichoke and cardoon aromas, with notes of roasted coffee
- Harmonious flavour rich in vegetable aromas, with dominating notes of artichoke and cardoon
- Well-defined bitter and spicy nuances
- Ideal for soups, vegetables, legumes, potatoes and onions, bruschetta and red meat
A delicious bitter note
It is here worth noting that bitter flavour is an important feature of “Villa Magra” oil.
As the Franci family says: “bitterness is a quality”, not a flaw. It is the oleuropein - a nutraceutical substance, i.e. a substance with proven curative properties - that gives this bitter taste; oleuropein is a polyphenol and as such, it has antioxidant properties.
Thanks to the innovative production techniques employed by Franci oil mill and the processing that takes places immediately after the olive harvest, the “Villa Magra” oil keeps its polyphenol content. Given the high concentration of antioxidants, this oil is considered a prime-quality product which is always consistent over time.
Organic Tuscan oil: Franci’s PGI organic Tuscan oil
Franci oil mill’s assortment had to include a certified organic and PGI Tuscan oil. This oil belongs to the company’s medium fruitiness selection and its olives are cultivated in the Orcia valley and in Maremma.
The sensory characteristics of the Frantoio Franci’s PGI Organic Tuscan oil are as follows:
- Medium fruity perfume
- Nose: grassy notes of artichoke and ripe fruit
- Fresh and clean flavour; at the beginning you perceive a sweet flavour which is followed by the artichoke’s bitter flavour
- Average spicy
- Ideal for soups, as dipping sauce for raw vegetables, for legumes, salad and fish
This oil won many awards, such as the gold medal at the Contest Monocultivar Olive Oil 2020 Bio.
Franci takes olive oil competitions very seriously. It is thanks to these competitions that Franci has managed to take on the challenge of raising awareness and spreading the culture of high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
Enjoy your bruschetta with a thread of prime-quality oil!
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