Sunday, February 5, 2012

New harvest olive oil from Fattoria la Vialla

There's almost nothing as luscious as freshly pressed olive oil as I was reminded last night when we dunked our bread into a saucerful of bright green grassy Tuscan oil. It's a world away from the cheap - and not so cheap - commercial oils which are blended from all over Europe. Think of the difference between a cup of coffee made from freshly roasted beans and one made from instant coffee granules and you get the picture.

I was sent a sample of the new year's harvest by Fattoria La Vialla who I visited a couple of years ago to research a feature for the wine magazine Decanter. It's a large estate in the south of Tuscany that produces its own organic oil, wine, cheese and various artisanal food products but what makes it especially interesting is that they sell not to wholesalers or shops but direct to the public*.

You can buy their products online (you need to register first) or by ordering from their charming handwritten catalogue. And because they cut out the middleman their prices are very reasonable - £12 a 750ml bottle for the new estate bottled olive oil, £1.80-£1.95 a 500g pack for pasta and £3.20-£5.50 for sauces, including delivery.

The product I'm most interested in - and plan to order next - is a non-alcoholic freshly squeezed grape juice or spremuta di uva which is made from Sangiovese grapes ("a healthy drink ... which is liked by both big and small" as the brochure nicely puts it) and which they claim has similar health benefits to red wine. That's £4.10 for a 750ml bottle or £1.55 for a 200ml kid-sized one.

They're also selling their bright, fruity Vino Novo - Tuscany's answer to Beaujolais Nouveau which pairs really well with the oil and the estate's own pecorino cheese - at £5.50 a bottle. I'm not quite so grabbed by their more mature reds though the vin santo at £7.50-9 a bottle is terrific value.

Most of the products come in bulk - the spremuta di uva, for instance in packs of six so you might want to band together with friends to put in an order.

*In the UK, Germany and a number of other European countries.

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