Last week we and our yoga guests enjoyed one of the most informative and intriguing afternoons to be had here in Puglia. A brief history and biology lesson of the olive tree, followed by a tasting and palate education at the beautiful Masseria Brancati. Corrado, the warm and entertaining owner, guided us around the masseria, the 3000 year old olive trees, the centuries old olive mill and finally, patiently, tested and teased our sense of smell and taste with good and bad olive oil.
Most of us have heard that much of the olive oil industry is corrupt, that bad oil is sold as good oil, industrial standard oil is cut with a little extra virgin and sold as the real thing. But most of us don’t really know what good olive oil should be like. When we first pressed our own olives, we tasted the oil as soon as we got home with a spoon. I would never have dreamed of drinking olive oil before, it was just our excitement to know what our own oil really tasted like. And the grassiness and the bitter burn at the back of the throat was really not expected, and I confess, worrying. But we soon learnt that actually that is a sign of good oil, fresh, extra virgin, pure. Corrado passed us cups to smell with rancid oil, “lamp” oil (industrial standard) and old oil. He talked us through the standards of olive oil and how they were obtained (extra virgin, virgin, lamp oil, refined oil and olive oil). He offered us a local oil, beautifully packaged and labelled as extra virgin – and showed us how to tell that it was nothing of the sort.
And then he shared his own oil; fresh and grassy. We tasted his early season oil, made with still-green olives, that had a spicy kick to it, and his later oil, produced in December with mature olives that was softer and lighter. I was delighted and relieved when I recognised our own oil in tasting his good oil! And jealous when he presented us with his lemon and lime infused oil, so delicious. Masseria Brancati does tours in July and August every Wednesday, and at other times for tours on request. I highly recommend it and will happily organise a visit for Trullo Solari guests. I may even go back with you!