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November 29th, 2007

on the road: Umbria


The day before the harvest, Marfuga olive groves near Trevi, Umbria (October 2007) © Jeff Koehler

At the eve of the olive harvest in October, I was invited by Francesco Gradassi to visit the family’s mill in Umbria and taste a very limited pressing of pre-season olives.

Marfuga Azienda Agraria is a 200-year-old family company that produces some of the best extra-virgin olive oils in Umbria. In the last few years they have won a string of prestigious prizes attesting to this – though such recognition isn’t new: since 1817 it has carried the papal seal.

The unfiltered, grassy-green novello was brought out in an unlabeled bottle. The taste was vivid and particularly spicy, flavorful. But very limited and not on the market.

The pressing from the first olives of the proper harvest would become their celebrated, limited edition (3000 half litre bottles a year) Extra-Virgin Olive Oil “L’affiorante.” It’s a strong and fruity oil, opaque and unfiltered, and made a single variety, Moraiolo. (Their other star is the organic Extra-virgin Olive Oil Umbria.O.P., a blended oil, emerald green and intense.)

After tasting the oils and having a look at the mill, Francesco’s father, Ettore, took me to see some of Marfuga’s groves. In his dusty 4×4 (with a sheathed shotgun on the backseat; he had been pheasant hunting), we climbed above Campello sul Clitunno in the Spoleto Valley towards Trevi, a picturesque medieval village that clings to a hillside. The trees cover a curving slope facing the village.

We strolled among gnarled old trees with silvery leaves and plump purplish olives. Ettore checked the fruit on various trees with a cigarette rakishly dangling from his lips. The following morning a crew of ten would arrive to begin stripping the trees by hand. Down the valley the mill was ready – the olives are pressed within 12 to 24 hours of harvest. The 2008 season was upon us.


Ettore Gradassi checking olives in the Marfuga groves, near Trevi, Umbria (October 2007) © Jeff Koehler

Posted by jeffkoehler in  on the road  |  

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