Although many of us would like to source all products locally, climate change will have to exert its upward pressure for a good few years yet before the UK is self sufficient in olive oil.
Our UK palates are mostly attuned to the robust Spanish and Greek varieties, as sold in supermarkets. Prolific olive production in these countries has kept prices affordable, but just as with wine, there is a big difference between the mass production process and the few thousand litres generated from carefully nurtured olive groves.
Olive oil has many similar requirements to wine, in terms of soil and climate. Although the two industries are targeted differently, where you find olive groves planted in the vicinity to superior wine, the oil produced will be of a high quality too. For example, two of the best wines in Italy (and globally) are Sassacaia and Ornellaia, described in the trade as Super Tuscan. These are produced from vineyards around Bolghieri near the coast in Tuscany. The soil there is perfect for the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and also for the olive groves cultivated alongside, at the beautiful estate of La Bandiera.
In the restaurants and enotecas in Bolghieri, La Bandiera is the locally produced olive oil of choice, liberally set out on tables for customers to dip their bread into, or perhaps to pour on to tomatoes or pasta. (It’s a tough life in Tuscany: if you’re not eating the oil, you’re drinking the wine!).
Happily, Jacqui Lane who produces the oil at La Bandiera, has just had a bumper harvest and is exporting to the UK. Tastings by chefs in London restaurants have been very positive: Miles Kirby at Caravan loves it , and Bocca di Lupo in Soho has just ordered 120 litres. With this head start, who knows if, in another hundred years the centuries-old Super Tuscan wines may be marketed as being grown on the same soil as the olive oil from La Bandiera?
Need to know:
Retail customers in the UK can order direct from www.labandiera.eu
Wholesale enquiries (UK or international):
Tel +44 (0)20 7243 5150
Tel: +39 0565 762201
Mobile: +39 348 7479436