It is a tradition that has been renewed for centuries and is the basis of one of the production chains that characterize the area: we are talking about the olive harvest, one of the most important moments that marks the changing of the seasons in the Tenuta di Montecorona. Nestled between Todi, Assisi and Perugia, in the heart of the Via Francigena, the estate encloses a small productive universe surrounded by 2.000 hectares of land on which the splendid Badia and the ancient Camaldolese Hermitage stand out. Here, in the quiet Umbrian countryside, autumn is time for oil and the olive harvest is what sets the production machine in motion.
To closely discover this timeless practice, which combines tradition and innovation, we had a chat with the agronomist and manager of the Estate, Stefano Belvisi.
The olive harvest between past and present
The olive harvest in the Montecorona Estate takes place at the end of October and, depending on the vintages, the seasons and the rainfall lasts more or less long, usually until mid-November. “Determining when is the right time for harvesting, Belvisi points out, is crucial: the olives must not be too ripe, but enough to be able to detach easily from the plant. The ideal is to start harvesting when the olive is still slightly unripe: this means that the fruit retains all its main scents, including those of grass and artichoke".
"The actual practice - explains the manager of the Estate - takes place mechanically, by means of a shaker: this machine embraces the trunk of the olive tree with a rubber clamp and opens an umbrella mesh that will receive the olives as they fall from the branches by mechanical vibration to which the machine will subject the plant at regular intervals of about five or ten seconds".
As the net is filled, the olives are passed into a tank, and then transferred to the containers destined for the oil mill for the milling phase.
"This step - says Belvisi - takes place in an external oil mill in close collaboration with the Estate".
A maximum of 24 hours pass between the harvest and the production of the oil, even in this case everything depends on timing: as the agronomist explains, in fact, in this way all the properties of the olives remain unchanged and are transferred to the final product.
This step, made possible by the timeliness that only mechanical harvesting can guarantee, is the key element for the high quality of the oil.
The relationship between territory and final product
The uniqueness of a product is almost always defined by the particular alchemy that arises from the interaction between the territory, production area and processing techniques and in this regard the moment of harvesting is the one in which you best get in touch with this magic: the fruit contains the aromatic synthesis of the territory and tells its peculiarities. How do Montecorona olives express this link?
The agronomist of the estate has no doubts about this: "altitude, temperature and soil quality have a decisive influence on the final product. Since the olive grove of the Estate is located at the top, 400 meters above sea level - explains us - the plants are more protected from insect attacks, also the soil that welcomes the olive trees is not particularly humid, which gives the fruit a pleasant aroma and a spicy taste, characteristics to which in the final product is added a note of bitterness that defines its identity as extra virgin olive oil".
The cultivars of Montecorona
The estate of Montecorona is characterized by the presence of three cultivars in particular: Frantoio, Leccino and Moraiolo, which are also accompanied by mixed varieties such as Pendolino and Borgiona. The oil production of the farm is the result of a land that extends for 30 hectares cultivated with monoconous.
"Often, Belvisi explains, we manage to make monovarietal harvests, which means isolating the individual varieties to give life to a production of oils with precious characteristics, to offer to customers who request it. Otherwise, the oils obtained from a single cultivar are stored to prepare specific blends, such as the one made according to the indications of the DOP Umbria, the oil of the highest range that the company produces and certifies.
The oil of Montecorona
The flagship product of the Tenuta di Montecorona is the DOP Umbria Colli del Trasimeno: an oil with an intense aroma, with vegetal notes of leaf and hints of balsamic herbs, which to the taste reveals bitter and spicy tones and a closing note of sweet almond.
For its characteristics, it's perfect with raw meat appetizers, vegetable soups with a strong flavor and grilled red meats.
"The excellence of the Umbria DOP of Montecorona, explains Stefano Belvisi, has earned the Estate numerous local awards, such as the regional competition Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP Umbria.
This product has also brought the company's name abroad thanks to international competitions such as the "Best of class Award 2008" at the Los Angeles International Extra Virgin Oil".
Discover the olive harvest and taste the flavours of the area: Montecorona in autumn
Visiting the Tenuta di Montecorona during the olive harvest is a unique opportunity to get in tune with the territory and its traditions, allowing yourself a moment of relaxation in the quiet of the Umbrian countryside, maybe spending the night in the elegant rooms of the Badia and letting yourself be pampered at the table by the dishes of local cuisine offered by the restaurant "Abbazia di Montecorona".
As Stefano Belvisi explains: "We always welcome the guests of the Estate who ask us to closely observe the time of the harvest, the olive groves are not far away and it often happens that someone asks us to be able to attend the work. Discovering this ancient practice, which has been taking place for centuries in the farm, we often combine a tasting of our olive oil".
Autumn with its colors and its scents is one of the most fascinating moments to discover the countryside surrounding Montecorona, perhaps taking a few hours to participate in the many events that mark October and November in Umbria such as the Eurochocolate in Bastia Umbra, the Chestnut Festival in Piegaro, the White Truffle Fair in Acqualagna or the Spoleto Jazz Season.
The ideal to complete your autumn mini break, then, is to treat yourself to a stay in the Estate: here the olive harvest will offer a dip in the agricultural traditions of the area creating a truly special atmosphere.
Haven't you felt like leaving yet?