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Behind Grove Doors - Rosalio

Nudo’s mission is to rid your life of bland, mass-produced and possibly adulterated olive oil – and to bring you genuine, Italian olive oil made by passionate producers. Check out this recent New York Times infographic and you might join the many others who are asking where their olive oil really comes from.

To help you understand more about the exact provenance of your Nudo oil, we’re doing a series of profiles of the producers behind our olive oil.

 Behind Grove Doors - The Rosalio Grove

In 2004 Jason and Cathy bought an abandoned olive grove with around 1000 trees in Le Marche Italy. They painstakingly restored it and it became the first olive grove in the world where you could adopt you own olive tree.

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What were your very first thoughts when you saw the grove?

CATHY: Gulp! The grove had been left abandoned for nearly 10 years, and had become the favoured local hunting ground for wild boar. The trees were overgrown and misshapen with whole branches hanging off. We had a feeling of trepidation (‘could we make this work?’), and excitement (‘of course we can!’).

How many people are involved in producing your oil?  What do you need to make it happen?

JASON: the two periods of intense activity are the pruning in the spring and the harvesting in fall. As soon as the weather improves after the winter, it’s time to prune. We’ll have between 4 and 10 people working their way through the grove for up to a week. Each tree takes between 30 minutes and an hour to prune. It really is considered an art form in the Italian countryside, not least because you have to look at your efforts for the next year. But there are national olive tree competitions and everything. For the harvest we have a team of 4 people, working for around a month. It takes a while, as all the olives are picked by hand, one tree at a time.

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What’s special about your oil?

CATHY: Every olive oil producer you will ever meet will tell you that their olive oil is the best – thanks to their unique microclimate, the exceptional soil, the altitude or their magic green fingers. Of course the real reason they treasure it is because of the immense effort that they have put into it. Since we have spent so much work reshaping and nurturing every tree, we also love our oil. Most of our trees are the leccino variety would give a nice medium fruitiness and gentle spice, which we love. And of course our olive oil really is the best.

In light of the recent infographic in the New York Times would you advise people to err on the side of caution and not buy Italian olive oil (other than Nudo of course)?

JASON: This infographic has caused a minor uproar in the olive oil world, due to some inaccuracies and generalisations in it, but the sense of it holds true – you need to buy from a known source. Of course you should still buy Italian olive oil, but my motto is ‘you get what you pay for’. I know how much it costs to make the proper stuff and it’s not $10 a litre (like you pay at Trader Joes). Always look for PRODUCT OF ITALY not IMPORTED FROM ITALY.

 How does hearing about fraud stories make you feel?

JASON: Of course it make me feel angry. We produce only a few thousand litres of high quality olive oil a year but have to do battle with worldwide commodity pricing and big-money subsidies – and cheats!

 Have you seen any evidence of it personally?

JASON: To make extra virgin olive oil you need to press the olives within 24 hours of being harvested. When I visited Liguria I saw loads of groves that were completely ignoring this simple rule – they simply left their nets under the trees waiting for the olives to fall off the trees over a period of weeks. To make an oil from these olives they would have had to either cut the oil with something else to hide the rancid taste or refine it.

How is Nudo helping other farmers?

CATHY: The Nudo adoption program gives farmers the security of knowing that their oil is pre-sold at a fixed price. The price of extra virgin olive oil can fluctuate widely, but Nudo buys the oil before it is even made. It also helps to spread the word about what real olive oil tastes like and the labours of producing it - and opens up an international market for local producers that they’d find hard to access on their own.

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Is there an obvious difference between olive oils from different countries?

JASON: Yes, the olive oil from Italy is more varied. You can find hundreds of olive 200 varieties (cultivars) in Italy, whereas in Spain most of the oil comes from three varieties.  As a sweeping generalisation central Italian oil is strong with a spicy finish, southern Italian olive is very green and grassy and northern Italian oil is light and delicate.

 Why is the grove called Rosalio?

CATHY: It was quite a spontaneous choice actually – it was the day we were officially registering our company in Italy and the accountant asked us ‘what is the name of the company?’ We looked at each other, embarrassed, realising that we hadn't even thought of one. We looked down at Rosie, then aged nearly 2 and already a big olive oil lover – and came up with Rosalio as a mix of her name and ‘olio’ the Italian for oil.

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To see a 360 view of the Rosalio grove click here

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To see the grove on Google earth click here

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