The contrasts could hardly be greater. We visit ultra-modern processing plants in the Var department of Provence, more laboratory than mill, and traditional farms that have been processing the olive harvest of small farmers for generations. Opinions differ on the methods and the taste. The traditionalists turn up their noses a bit at their high-tech colleagues. The latter, in turn, smile at the old and ponderous methods. For all fans of olive oil, it is fortunate that both worlds exist.
The harvesting season begins in the Var region in November. Small trees are harvested by hand. Larger trees with the help of motorized shakers. A gripper arm is carefully placed around the trunk and the tree is vibrated so that the olives fall onto a tarp laid out on the ground. To further speed up the harvesting process, the tarp with the olives is immediately pulled into the trailer. The goal is to process the olives as quickly and as undamaged as possible. At Chateau de Taurenne, emphasizes plant manager Yann Fernandez, less than eight hours pass from harvesting to crushing the olives. The standard for an olive oil of the highest quality, the extra virgin, is a maximum of 24 hours. It is always a race against time, because degradation and fermentation processes of the olive fruit lead to sensory defects and even musty notes in the olive oil.
Tradition and modernity
Black olives – taste of childhood
Provence looks back on a millennium-old history of the olive tree and oil production. When one thinks of the traditional processing of olives, romantic notions of stone mills for the pre-crushing of the olives and hydraulic presses for the extraction of the oil quickly emerge. In Provence, these traditional oil mills can still be found today. Family-owned for many generations and with a history documented over many centuries, they practice the craft of olive oil production according to ancient methods and produce the old, authentic flavor that is still highly appreciated today, especially by the locals. The familiar smell and taste of the olive oil according to the historical model are reminiscent of pickled black olives or tarpenade.
Other aspects: Portrait of a modern oil mill / Portrait of a traditional oil mill / Description of processing steps modern and traditional / Harvesting methods / Olives and fermentation / Aroma spectrum, taste and laboratory values / Why malaxation is important / Health aspects olive oil.
The research trip has been partly supported on the spot by the French Tourism Federation