A visit to Batta Olive Oil: a long history that binds this family to the olives since ‘700. And today Giovanni and Giuliana’s oil is a symbol of excellence, respect for nature and love for an increasingly more difficult profession.
by Filippo Benendetti Valentini
Giovanni Batta keeps documents in a drawer which testify that in Perugia, since ‘700, the production of olive oil was one of the most flourishing activities. Olive oil, destined not only for alimentary but also religious purposes as well as for use a lightening material, is perhaps the product which describes the most charming way the Italy of that time. And today the Frantoio Batta, situated just 5 kilometers from the Perugia’s city center, is the historical evidence of an ancient vocation that these territories have for growing olives.
The ancient “Jewish Sodo (soil, ed.)”
The extra virgin oil produced by Giovanni and his wife Giuliana is among the most renowned in all of Umbria. What makes it so valuable is not only the high quality, which is now top priority for most manufacturers, but also its historical value. The farm was founded in 1929, when Giovanni’s grandfather bought the first ten hectares of land in an area the city called the “Jewish Sodo”: an olive grove planted on an ancient Jewish cemetery in the seventeenth century, which became the Church property two centuries later.
From that first piece of land, the family built their home and business, starting to produce oil, wine and wheat. But when Giovanni takes over from his parents in the 80s, the company put its sole focus on olive oil. More land was acquired and, with the help of the University of Perugia, new olive groves were planted next to the secular olive trees. Today the frantoio comprises a total of 13 hectares, where more than 3500 varieties of plants such as Dolce Agogia, Frantoio, Leccino and some of Moraiolo grow. These are the most typical Umbria varieties, which in this area (that falls within the DOP Colli del Trasimeno), produce an oil with a light fruity taste, with harmonious bitter and spicy notes, topped off with a pleasant almond scent.
Work on the Frantoio
During the first years of activity, extraction was done with the traditional olive press, which was replaced in 2000 by the more modern “continuous cycle” technology, which guarantees a process free from oxidation. The olives are transported on a tape, washed and milled. After a brief mixing procedure, a small amount of water is added to the olive paste, which allows a better separation of the oil from other compounds. Today the Batta extra virgin oil is produced to the highest standards of quality: low acidity, rich in polyphenols and absolutely flawless.
The farming methods as well as the oil arecertified organic. In the cold months, the olive trees they are pruned. With the arrival of warmer temperatures the monitoring of pests starts and and treatments allowed by organic farming are used to keep the fruit intact and healthy. Giovanni is on the fields every day and takes care of his plants with respect, faces difficult years (such as recent seasons) and is able in this way to give his best. The olives of the secular plants are harvested by hand, while the modern plant are harvested with mechanical shakers that can significantly shorten the time and prevent oxidation of the pulp. Olives, in fact, never get to the mill later than 2 hours after their harvest. The right degree of ripeness is always waited for in order to produce an oil with a balanced flavor.
Labels: base, PDO and flavored
The average annual production of Frantoio Batta is 50-60 quintals per year, sold to both local and foreign markets (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France and Japan). The two main labels are the basic Extra Virgin and Extra Virgin DOP Umbria – Colli del Trasimeno. The latter, produced only with the best olives, is a blend of 65% Frantoio, 15% Dolce Agogia and the remaining part Leccino and Moraiolo: the result is an oil with an intense yellow color, full-bodied and with hints of grass and artichoke. The taste is initially sweet and the come bitter and spicy flacors to balance the initial impression, which then finihes with a flavor of lettuce and almond. The oil is an ideal accompaniment for Ideal legumes, vegetables au gratin, roasted lake fish, chicken and pork. The average price at the mill is about 13 euro per liter, making it very convenient for a high quality product, rich in flavor and antioxidants. The frantoio also offers aromatic oils, made by mixing the olives with chiles, sage, thyme, rosemary and fresh lemons during the grinding process.
For several years now this high standard of quality has been rewarded with the most important Italian and international awards. In 2017, Batta oil was added as one of the best 20 in the prestigious guidebook Flos Olei Marco Oreggia and the Dop got a score of 96/100. It has also been mentioned in the Slow Food guide and has been awarded three Gambero Rosso “leaves”. It is also praised in the Extra Gold of Biol, the international guide of organic oils.