Apart from producing wines, farms also produce limited amounts of olive oil and olive products for their own consumption and for sale only at their own shops. Olives products from these farms are not marketed globally. I found this an interesting and educational diversion. Our guide told us that once the olives reach a certain size, a net is spread on the ground and the green olives are picked by hand, dropped onto the net and gathered up at the end of the day for immediate pressing. As soon as the olives are picked, they begin to produce acid. Since the olive oil from this region is produced with less than 1 percent acidity, the olives must be crushed and bottled within 24 hours. This gives a rich, smooth olive oil of a particularly light color. This is referred to as "extra virgin olive oil". Not all the olives are picked. Quite a few are left on the trees and picked when they are fully ripe in the same manner as the green olives. Again, they are crushed and the oil is bottled within 24 hours. If the olive oil is bottled from this ripened harvest, it has a different color, but it is still referred to as "extra virgin olive oil." This olive oil has a darker color and stronger flavor than the olive oil produced from the green olives. Farms mix and/or combine the oils to a blend which each farm considers best.
Olive trees are not usually pruned when they are young. The older trees (10-15 years old) are pruned regularly. In the region of Tuscany , or perhaps more precisely this farm, the centers of the trees are pruned out of the trees so the sun can penetrate and ripen the olives more effectively. Olive trees need little or not maintenance and are, therefore, easy to grow. Their only requirement is a mild climate. During the drought in 1985, many olive trees died, but the roots survived, so new trees grew up to replace the perished trees.
Our guide told us that olive oils produced commercially from Tuscany are not necessarily fromolives grown in this area.
The factories producing the olive oil are situated in Tuscany . The olives may be imported from other regions of the world. Because olives begin to produce acid as soon as they are picked, when olives are imported to Tuscany , they have a very high acid content. This is not desirable for good olive oil. The olives are, therefore, chemically treated to reduce the acidity when crushed into oil. This oil is then referred to as extra virgin olive oil as well. And, since it is produced in Tuscany , it is called "extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany ." So only when you are in Tuscany can you buy olive oil from local farms production. Because of the many hours of manual labor required for local olive oil production, the olive oil is a little more expensive. One might conclude that local farm production is not marketed globally because of the high costs of production which does not make it competitive. Perhaps that is one of the reasons for wine toursand local farm shops to market the produce to tourists and, thereby, cut marketing costs and generate revenues from local sales.
The wine tasting was a new experience for us. Not only did you taste wonderful wines, you enjoyed the regions specialty in olives and olive oils, unsalted breads, cold cuts, cheese and sweet almond biscuits. We started off with 2 white wines and sliced, unsalted white bread, olive oil and 3 types of cold cuts (including 2 kinds of salami and Parma ham. The bread in Tuscany is traditionally unsalted for 2 reasons
1) Salt was very expensive - this dates back to the Roma times when soldiers were paid in salt not gold and
2) Because of the climate.
Salt in bread absorbs humidity and does not keep. Since the cold cuts have a high salt content (also serving as a preservative in warm climates), it is not necessary to add the salt to flavor the bread.