Mid November is an important diary date for Gozitan dentist Joseph Xuereb. It signals the arrival of the first bottles of the year’s new olive oil harvested from some very special olive groves in Umbria, Italy. Just how a slice of Umbrian heritage comes to Malta is about one man’s love of a cloudy green nectar. It’s also the tale of business mixing with pleasure with surprising results.
Joseph is part of the production team from grove to press and onward to Malta. He enjoys seeing the oil he helps produce and bring to Malta enjoyed and shared, perhaps chatted about by a few in the know. The Umbrian olive oil is pressed in time-honoured tradition from tree to bottle in under two days, then packaged exquisitely and imported to Malta in three weeks flat.
It represents a small-volume, specialist product with a niche brand; a true connoisseur’s oil. It’s peppery to the taste buds; an oil that is part of a dish, not a mere vehicle to cook or dress it in. It’s perfect savoured simply; all you need is a crusty Maltese loaf to accompany it. For how to buy, see article end.
Joseph and his wife Elsie are frequent visitors to Terni in southern Umbria, a city within striking distance of Rome just 80 km south. In fact, the Roman town of Carsulae whose ruins lie near the olive groves was the last stop of Roman legions returning home. Here, they’d encamp and make ready for a final triumphant march into the capital. Another stop on the tourist trail nearby is the walled town of San Gemini, famed for its mineral water.
The reason for Joseph’s trips to Italy’s most rural and land-locked region is to liaise with an Italian lab that produces the prosthetics for his dental patients. Over the years, Italian business partners become friends and his trips extended to sightseeing then stumbling across and getting involved with La Poiana, a old farm with an incredible heritage in olive oil.
La Poiana (the buzzard) – the oil’s brand name – is a rambling farm in need of restoration, but Joseph’s Umbrian friends saw the potential of its abandoned olive groves. Joseph too was drawn to the challenge of restoring the land, replanting where trees had died in the famed killer frosts of Italian winters past. He became part of their mission to bring back into production some of Italy’s most prized olive growing land.
“I have a passion for wine, but knew that I would never have the time from my career to gain the know-how to start a winery,” Joseph says, explaining how he got in to helping out in the olive business. “Olive growing complements my love of wines and is something I can indulge in learning about.” he explains.
La Poiana Estate
La Poiana comes from a region renowned for some of the finest oils. In fact, all Umbrian olive production has D.O.P (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) which means the oil is strictly quality controlled and from the region granted the D.O.P. status. La Poiana’s groves are also farmed with organic methods. The estate bottles several single olive oil varieties for the gift and connoisseur market. These are the ‘Laudemio’ oils. In the Middle Ages, Laudemio referred to that part of the crop reserved for the lord, or for the owner of the land and so were always the highest-quality portion of what was harvested. The remainder is sold as a superior blend.
Production is limited with the 400 trees yielding around 600 litres. “At the most, there will only be 550 trees so La Poiana will always be a rare find; a true connoisseur produce,” Joseph says. The oil in its unusual presentation bottles makes a perfect gift and festive hamper choice. For how to buy, see below.
Olive Oil Varieties
Three olive varieties, typical of Umbria and Tuscany are grown at La Poiana: Frantoio and Moraiolo are considered strong in taste, while Leccino is usually classified as a mild olive variety
Frantoio: The oil is usually described as fruity (green banana), green, herbaceous (grass and green tea) and pungent – it goes very well on grilled steak, lobster and crab, vegetables like Brussels sprouts and artichoke, pasta, tomatoes and Brousse cheese
Moraiolo: This oil can be described as fruity, green, mildly pungent and quite fruity Its flavour stands out on cooked vegetables and complements fishand pork very well
Leccino: This oil is delicate, mildly fruity, spicy and sweet evoking hints of artichoke, sweet almonds and wild thistle. It is recommended for dressing salads and meat carpaccios as well as for preparing desserts
How to Buy
La Poiana oils are superb to gift, particularly this time of year at Christmas. La Poiana is offering Malta Insideout site users a special price of 1 Euro off the recommended RPP for each oil and the blend:
Single oils, 250ml cube: Euro 13
Single oils, 500ml cube: Euro 19
Email email@example.com to purchase and for delivery information.