When it comes to Tuscany’s “liquid gold,” Carpineto has olive it.
Long held in high esteem for its superb quality vino, Tuscany’s Carpineto winery has recently begun mining a different type of “liquid gold” from the soils around Gaville, Chianciano e Montepulciano and Gavorrano. Three distinctive single-grove olive oils are now being marketed as part of the firm’s Appodiati estate collection (which also includes single-vineyard wines), a move that is sure to intrigue gastronomes who think they’ve seen (or tasted) everything.
“The average consumer has become much more knowledgeable about wine and food,” reports Carpineto winemaker and partner Giovanni Carlo Sacchet. “Since each of our estates … produces an olive oil that is markedly different from the other, however still in the typically Tuscan style, we’ve decided to bottle them separately to show that differences in terroir are as prevalent in olive oil as in wine.”
As with wine, the fruit used to make the olive oil is a critical factor in its overall quality. Carpineto’s oils (and most Tuscan olive oils for that matter) use the Frantoio variety of olives that gives them their classic intense herbaceous, peppery flavour. The root system in the orchards is over 100 years old, although a devastating frost in 1985 killed off most of the orchards in Tuscany, necessitating extensive regrafting. (Carpineto’s most southerly orchards in Gavorrano were spared.)
Explaining the distinctiveness of each of the three oils, Carpineto’s Antonio M. Zaccheo Jr returns to the subject of terroir. “This is a perfect control study,” he explains. “All olives are picked in different places and crushed at the same facility near Greve in Chianti, so the only variable is the terroir. The percentage of Frantoio olive in each grove varies from 70 to 90 per cent, but the biggest factor is the terroir.”
Zaccheo points out that Carpineto employs a modern crushing facility with temperature controls that minimize oxygen exposure for maximum quality. “There are still producers that use old-fashioned stone mills, a technology that goes back to the Romans,” he notes. However romantic this sounds, Zaccheo warns that this ancient process brings with it the risk of some serious qualitative flaws. The modern system used by Carpineto also minimizes bacterial contamination and reduces suspended organic matter resulting in prolonged fragrance, flavour and shelf life.
To preserve the quality of the oils once they have been opened, Zaccheo recommends storing the bottles in a dark, cool place (but not in the refrigerator) and using them within a month. The oils are packaged in dark-glass 500 ml bottles to reduce light penetration and preserve freshness for as long as possible.
Appodiato di Gavorrano, Oliveto il Picciolo (Grosseto)
Green colour with a fairly intense, fruity aroma and some mild grassy notes; full-bodied with good complexity and a long finish; best enjoyed drizzled over bread, tomatoes and fresh pasta.
Appodiato di Gaville, Oliveto di Sillano (Florence)
Green colour with an aromatic, slightly spicy aroma; rich, complex and with characteristic peppery notes that linger into the finish; use on tomato bruschetta, fish carpaccio, green salads and fresh vegetables.
Appodiato di Chianciano e Montepulciano, Oliveto delle Simbarde (Siena)
Green colour with a peppery aroma enhanced by fruity/herbaceous elements that reappear on the palate; classy stuff; enjoy as a condiment over fresh bread, young cheeses, meat carpaccio and typical Italian dishes such as steak fiorentina.