An article of great reporter and journalist Mort Rosemblum on Herald Tribune, the International edition of New York Times, talks about Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort, Paolo Pasquali and power of olive oil culture. Here the full text!
VICCHIO - TUSCANY
When the Renaissance started around here on Giotto’s palette, back around 1300, olives had been oiling the works of Mediterranean civilizations for millennia. They symbolized peace, and a pleasant lunch.
Today in the Mugello, this outrageously beautiful patch of Tuscany, olives still mean happy meals in a tranquil setting. So Paolo Pasquali decided this was the perfect spot to recivilize a troubled world with what he calls an oleotheque.
Mr. Pasquali collects fine oils from all over the map. Samples go to top chefs in Europe, the United States and Asia, and they experiment with flavor profiles. Visitors from across the world also come to Villa Campestri, his olive-oil resort up the road from Florence, to learn about the noble fruit.
As Mr. Pasquali himself cheerfully points out, he’s a little loony on the subject. Spurning the specialists’ lexicon, he sets olive oil nuances to music so people can detect high and low notes, harmonious chords and off-key cacophony.
“It is time to speak of respect for olive oil,” he says. “It needs its own space.”
That makes some sense down in his 13th-century cellar, as he fills his tiny beakers and speaks in a mix of Renaissance-man wisdom and carnival patter.
Pax oliviana dates to the Old Testament. The dove that (reportedly) advised Noah he could finally park the Ark carried with it a simple message: an olive sprig. What kept the lamp lit for eight days, a miracle that Jews celebrate at Hanukkah? Olive oil.
The first Olympic competitors, over in Greece, wore only a coating of olive oil. As explorers widened the map, colonizers planted olive trees wherever they would grow. The Spanish, carrying essentials with which to settle a New World, planted groves in Mexico and Peru.
Today Californians make excellent oil from trees that date to the first missions. Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans adapt old varieties to their distinct terroirs.
But for cooks and connoisseurs, little matches the sharp green nectar of Tuscany’s holy trinity of olive oil: frantoio, leccino and the sharp-edged but fruity moraiolo.
Mr. Pasquali, 62, embraced oil with a convert’s zeal. He taught philosophy at the University of Florence and then made a killing as a publisher of niche newspapers. He turned tradition on its head, running ads for free but fixing a high cover price. He sold the business in 1989 and bought the tumbledown Villa Campestri.
He whacked away the jungle that engulfed his 300-plus acres, and somewhere along the way he fell in love with the forgotten olive trees. He applied his contrarian logic: spend what’s necessary to make excellent oil and teach people its value.
An engineer friend designed a high-tech improvement on Leonardo da Vinci’s oil press. With simple crushing, massaging and slow-speed spinning, it yields barely half what an industrial machine would produce. But it’s the good half.
“What do I care about the cost?” Mr. Pasquali said, with an airy wave of the hand. “I want the best.”
For the Mozart of Moraiolo, that’s the key. Whatever else ails today’s world, we’ve still got good olive oil.
* Here the original text: http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/20/in-tuscany-a-mad-celebrant-of-olive-oil/
and a biography of Mort Rosemblum on his website:http://www.mortrosenblum.net/