Questo articolo è il risultato della collaborazione tra SapereFood e Umbra Institute, filiale italiana di alcuni college e università statunitensi con sede a Perugia. Dopo un approfondimento sul settore agroalimentare e sullle tecniche di scrittura giornalistica, gli studenti di Umbra Institute hanno visitato alcune importanti aziende della regione, raccontando la loro esperienza sul campo e contribuendo a diffondere la qualità alimentare dell’Umbria all’estero.
by Samantha Garapati
Marfuga olive oil begins its journey at dawn, as workers hand pick olives from the thirteen thousand olive trees Francesco Gradassi, the owner of Marfuga, cultivates. The trees are grown in the calcareous soil between Assisi and Spoleto, in “the heart of Umbria” as the company likes to say. The olives travel some 20 miles before reaching the Marfuga mill located in the rural town of Campello sul Clitunno.
There, the olives are first put into a machine that cleans and de-stems them, before they pass into other machines that crush and reduce them to pulp before separating the oil from the water and residual pulp. If this all sounds marvelously technological, well, it’s because it is. Marfuga has embraced technology more than most olive oil producers in Umbria, with every step of the process being precisely machinated and temperature controlled by computers. This way, the olives never go over the 22 degree Celsius threshold needed to produce high quality extra-virgin oil. This doesn’t mean that the production process is without human intervention. Adem, the bottling expert, constantly hovers over the machines, adjusting computer controls now and then, keeping an eye on the colour and texture of the olives and the oil at every stage.
The company today produces four main types of olive oil. The Novello Marfuga, the first oil of the year to be produced, is squeezed from young, not yet ripe olives in October and bottled sans filtration, giving it its characteristic raw, grassy flavour and colour. From tasting it, I can safely say it is not for the faint of heart. The L’Extravergine Marfuga seems to be the reliable Girl Friday of the oils, this is the one Marfuga recommends for everyday use. Like all the other oils, excepting the L’Affiorante, the L’Extravergine is made from a blend of the three olive varieties: Moraiolo, Frantoio, and Leccino. The third oil, the D.O.P. Umbria Marfuga, is named such because it is designated as ‘Italian Protected Designation of Origin’. And last but not least, Marfuga’s much crowed about jewel-in-the-crown, the L’Affiorante Marfuga, is made using solely Moraiolo olives, the only oil Marfuga produces that isn’t a blend of the three different olive varieties. This is certainly the strongest in flavour of the four oils, with hints of artichoke and almonds, and a sharp, bitter aftertaste. It’s been awarded to the hilt, consistently receiving a high rating from the eminent Italian food and wine magazine Gambero Rosso.
About 50% of the bottles Marfuga produces are exported to countries like the USA, Denmark and Japan, while the rest are sold within Italy to customers who don’t mind paying a premium for high quality and taste. Today, the extra-virgin Marfuga is certainly on the higher end of the price spectrum, a carefully calibrated olive oil that is a far cry from its humble beginnings as oil produced for friends and family in the home of Francesco Gradassi’s grandfather, Domenico.