Puglia produces 40% of Italy’s olive oil. Much of it is anonymous, sent north to be blended. The pugliesi contingent at Trieste’s excellent recent olive oil fair, Olio Capitale, on the other hand were visible and loud. Very loud.
We were there looking for the farmers who didn’t send their oil north. The ones who have invested in their own mills and prioritise quality over volume. Trying to cut through all the noise was hard work until we met Sabino Leone, a tall rangy figure with the glow of a man who works the rich land of Southern Italy.
Sabino’s farm of around 140 hectares is situated between Foggia and Bari at around 150mt above sea level, in one of the most densely-planted areas of Puglia. His farm alone has 30,000 trees, of which the majority are coratina (including some over 200 years old) with the rest a mixture of carolea, frantoio and perenzana.
The farm’s own mill works the olives, all of which are the result of organic farming practices (the mill, a labour of love and made to his own demanding specifications, neatly collects the olive residue to be spread on the land as fertiliser). The family’s oils are all monovarietals which Sabino prefers to blends as it allows a greater expression of his land.
At Trieste, when I tasted them, my notes, up to that point fairly detailed, peter out in to a simple “amazing ”.