The View from Italy
In the Valpolicella for the MDR – AIPO Olive Oil Conference
A view of the Valpolicella Valley.
Last week we had the opportunity to participate in the Associazione Interregionale Produttori Olivicoli (AIPO) Conference in Verona. Our very own Luanne Savino O’Loughlin was invited to be part of a US delegation to meet with a group of designated politicians, leaders in the olive oil sector, and a variety of producers.
The group was organized by the Mediterranean Diet Roundtable (MDR), led by Daniela Puglielli.
A video related to the event from TGVerona Telenuovo can be seen here.
Our delegation included four US buyers of olive oil, representing food service, specialty grocery, bulk wholesale, and e-commerce (that’s us). Each of us purchases directly from Italy and arranges imports. We were accompanied by Alessio Fasano MD, with appointments on the Harvard medical staff, where he has interests in both pediatric gastroenterology, and also teaches a required course on nutrition. He is a proponent of the health-forward Mediterranean Diet and has written books such as Gluten Freed and Gut Feelings.
Our activity in Verona featured two days of meetings and four days of visits to producers.
Le Guaite dei Noemi situated on the hills of Mezzane di Sotto.
We met with a range of producers, from the large Redoro and Fontarana groups, to our mid-size producer Olio Bonamini, and to a few very small family producers.
Our two days of meetings were supplemented by tours of olive producers, a meeting in Verona’s City Hall (to discuss tourism in the olive oil sector), and a lively club-like atmosphere in the agriturismo, Locanda dell Oleificio, where we were hosted in Mezzane di Sotto. We’re happy to recommend these accommodations for your next wine or olive oil tour!
At the outset of the invitation, we expressed concern because we were aware that this region had a very difficult harvest in 2021 due to harvest conditions. Olives native to Garda and Valpolicella were particularly hard hit. To our knowledge, no producer successfully produced a DOP Veneto Valpolicella from the 2021 harvest. (Fortunately other trees were fruitful).
Due to the drastic loss of the crop, some producers had no 2021 extra virgin olive oil. Others could not produce their full line of products. (This is also true in other regions; Tuscan, Ligurian, and Sicilian producers noted problems).
At the conference and on the site visits, some producers poured the prior harvest oil for our tasting. The action was bittersweet. They *so* wanted us to appreciate their olive oil and their efforts. But only one 2020 tasting was impressive for its lasting character (Olio Bonamini’s DOP Veneto Valpolicella).
Giancarlo and Sabrina Bonamini guided our tasting at Olio Bonamini.At Villa Maffei, we met with groups of producers, most from the local area, but others traveled the boot to meet with us. Producers from Puglia, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, and Abruzzo also participated in the MDR-AIPO Conference.As we participated in the lively panel, we entertained questions about the importance of competitions, our purchasing criteria, the olive oil characteristics we seek, and the impact of the current supply chain.
Farming is an occupation of passion. In every case and with every producer there is always optimism. Young producers want to gain skills to develop their craft. More experienced producers are seeking new markets. On each site visit, they explain chosen technology, recent improvements, methods of milling, and techniques of storage and preservation.
The conflict in Ukraine served as a backdrop to the conference. Financial Times, BBC News, and other major outlets are reporting on the drastic impacts for the world’s food supplies. One must consider if the loss of this year’s sunflower planting will result in a shortage of sunflower oil. If it does, consumers will turn to other oils, including olive oil. Wheat has significant production in Ukraine and Russia, and we are hearing of pasta factories closing and a significantly higher prices for semolina di grana dura.
Food for thought: This is the time to plant the seeds. The workers who would otherwise be planting the fields and driving the trucks and tractors, are involved in the conflict.
We will continue to stay in close contact with all of our producers in Italy to maintain supplies for our customers.
Where We Stayed
Olio Bonamini on our Site
Luanne with Sabrina and Giancarlo Bonamini.