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Interview to: Dante Sambuchi

Q1) Do you tell us the peculiarities of your EVOOs and its link to your olive growing territory?
The interest in producing a superior quality Extravergin Olive Oil * (EVOO) was the driving force that promoted me to relaunch the family-run farm "Le Pietraie", directing it exclusively to certified and organic EVOO production, considering it no longer a simple ingredient, but a " functional food", necessary and indispensable in the everyday kitchen. For this reason, the company produces six different EVOOs, trying to stimulate and meet the ever increasing interests of consumers on the quality EVOO. Regarding the EVOO as a functional food, it must be used from the outset in the preparation process of the dish during cooking. If the preparation begins with poor oil, the simple addition of  a drizzle of an excellent EVOO would never recover the quality of a dish, or worst, losing the EVOO quality connotations.
The farm " Le Pietraie" is located on the northern hills of Umbria region, bordering with Tuscany, 150km from Florence and 200km from Rome, due to its geographical circumstances, initially two types of EVOO were produced: the Toscano Colline di Arezzo PGI, from centuries-old olive groves, and the Umbria Colli del Trasimeno PDO. Both oils were obtained from promiscuous olive groves and its oil quality, as being highly affected by the weather conditions, posed another problem. Having the different cultivars with different harvesting times, it was impossible to proceed a perfect collection of all varieties. As a matter of fact that I decided to purchase in this region another property favorable to the cultivation of olive trees with a small lake, served as an essential source of water for irrigation. After a painstaking cleaning of orchards and the preparation of the suitable soil, I planted some cultivars specific for the PDO certification, following the precious suggestions of experts, arranging them individually for plots, with ideal intervals among them to facilitate pollination. All these new olive groves are equipped with adequate irrigation systems: drip irrigation and germination, with the view to favour a perfect growth and development of the fruit in the case of increasingly frequent droughts and to create the ideal content of polyphenols in the plant through optimal irrigation systems. All this, regarding the collection of cultivars, more or less anticipated, has contributed to diversify the intensity of the fruitiness of EVOOs produced.
The production, the medium fruity EVOO Toscano PGI  "Collesecco" obtained from olives: Moraiolo, Frantoio, Leccino, Regiale and the light fruity Umbria PDO "Pietraia": Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino, Dolce Agogia, Moraiolo, we have another  intense fruity DOP Umbria " Vignolo". In addition to these, we produce a blend " Apicale" made from a selection of exclusively hand- picked olives, harvested from the highest peak of the plant (4.5 m.) fully exposed to air and sun, whose dimension is  larger than other fruits, as positioned at the apex, where the photosynthetic activity is much more vigorous especially on apex. The EVOO obtained is, therefore, much more rich in aromas, flavours and beneficial health-promoting properties. Furthermore, we produce the two monocultivar products: Gentile di Anghiari and Borgiona, with intense organoleptic notes of freshly-cut grass the first and an evident tomato leaf note the latter. The company, in favor of the safeguard of minor autochtonous cultivars, joins in TIBORG project: with the view to revitalization of native olive varieties of the Alta Valle del Tevere, such as Gentile di Anghiari and Borgiona, in cooperation with 3A Parco Tecnologico Agroalimentare dell' Umbria – Istituto di Bioscienza e Biorisorse, U.O.S. Perugia( CNR/ IBBR)- Istituto di ricerca per la Protezione Idrogeologica ( CNR/ IRPI).

Q2) How was used olive oil at your home in your childhood? Do you remember any your favourite traditional recipes based on olive oil and table olives?
The olive oil, being a natural juice from a fruit not subjected to chemical processes and for its unique flavour, encourages the consumption of other healthy foodstuffs like vegetables. The EVOO, in my life, it was always and definitely one of the most present foods. The famous " bread and olive oil" was the snack that has accompanied me in my childhood, not  because there were not offers of other snacks, but because I preferred it, even today, I keep alive the tradition of " bread and olive oil", with fresh tomato put and rubbed on bread and, of course, olive oil poured on top. I see with pleasure children of my friends, although large consumers of snack foods rich in hydrogenated fats, preservatives substances and food colouring, ask for more the proposal such as "bread and olive oil".

Q3) Do you think that high quality restaurant ( the world of catering) could be fundamental for creating the synergy with the producers of excellent EVOO?
Considerations on the quality EVOO in the restaurant business, without doubt, have been increased, although, as my regards, not derived from the conviction of the restaurateur, which should have taken place a long time, but as a consequence of the awareness of the wide range of consumers to distinguish between the higher quality EVOO and the inferior one. Currently on the tables of the high-quality restaurants we can find the quality EVOO, the problem, in any case, remains in the preparation of the dish in the kitchen. We face usually scandals on an ever increasing olive oil  counterfeit, even if you oddly tend to forget it, in comparison of the polemic on the methanol of wine. The rewarding consideration that olive oil had at the time of the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans is far away. Recently, nonetheless, we see a growing awareness relative to the health benefits that the quality EVOO provides to our body, showed  by university research centres, scientists, olive oil experts and enthusiasts, protecting us from the modern chronic diseases. Evidently, therefore, it is not a matter of taste.
There are so many broadcasting of cuisine on the preparation of delicacies coordinated by renowned chefs: never a specific mention on the importance of the EVOO as a functional food or unique foodstuff for the success of some dishes. It would be enough for EVOO a recognition, in this way it would trigger an interest. I think that, even though there are laws outlook olive oil, rather than to defend and protect the EVOO, which tend to categorically degrade its quality: the right way is embarked without any remedies.    
Q4) Do you have any suggestions and/or ideas to offer "motivated and evolved" consumers the discovery of these products rich in culture, story and pleasure?

As far as I am concerned, advertising, communication medium and images should be used to enforce the characteristics of the product. Small producers of the quality EVOO, among others, being not able to establish themselves, tend to strive to present their product on the market. Each producer, in my opinion, can and must work on their own knowledge, friendships, showcasing his product through tasting sessions with the objective to spread it as much as possible. It is fairly difficult to realise and grow the association of small producers. I believe that it is useful to create the mosaic type synergy, since the olive oil alone, in and of itself, does not have the strength enough to assert itself, together with a steady and continuous study: food service field ( restaurant, catering), gastronomy sector, EVOO related magazines, in order to stimulate curiosity and interest among consumers, as well as "oleoteca" ( EVOO gourmet boutiques), hoping that they could create the place, as a status symbol, where everyone involved can reunite in the dissemination of this product. As for oleo-tourism, olive oil related tourism, I consider that it has a great potential in spreading the knowledge of the world of olive oil, where the combination of culture, history and traditional culinary art can be successful, since the olive oil has always accompanied the peoples and the development of the most ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean basin.

Azienda Agricola Le Pietraie
di Dante Sambuchi

Loc. Le Pietraie 15 - Fraz. Ronti - 06010 Città di Castello (Pg) – Italia
Tel. e Fax 075.8574458 - 338.2936982
info@aziendaagricolasambuchi.it - www.aziendaagricolasambuchi.it

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