Yes, unfortunately the desire for scam artists to profit from the demand for Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is alive and well. See the article below and this article on Spanish thieves who stole a million dollars worth of oil to sell in Italy. Really unbelievable. (On Good Food this week, hear my conversation with Dan Flynn of the UC Davis Olive Center about mislabeling of imported olive oil in California.)
But there are still honest producers who work incredibly hard to offer a super high quality product. I’m in Italy right now and today I met such a producer. Beatrice Contini Bonacossi is one of several siblings who run Capezzana, one of the oldest wine/oil producing estates in Tuscany. They recently found a document (on actual parchment) dated 804 (yes that’s not a typo…not 1804) which mentions the estate as an oil and wine producing farm. Imagine land that has been continually producing oil and wine for 1200 years. The Bonacossi’s have had it since the 1920s. Pretty impressive. But just as impressive is the oil itself, which is everything one expects from an Olio Nuovo. Delicious nose, a light peppery note and a fresh pressed color which seems fake. As the oil ages the intense green will eventually mellow. I was drinking it with a spoon.
They have 26,000 trees all harvested manually. They use an old-fashioned but savvy way to manage all those trees. The acreage is divided up into 100 lots. Each lot is managed by a team of two who get to keep 50% of the oil production. Beatrice says that since they’ve moved to this model the trees are so beautifully cared for that the overall quantity of oil that’s produced has grown to the point that the 50% they keep is the same amount they were producing before the “share-croppers” got involved. This year the acidity of the oil, one of the key indicators of quality was actually below zero. It was 0.08.