Words: Thomas Thayer
Finding a new producer to work with can sometimes feel like you have walked into a crowded room after a dinner party, only to have a dozen or so people advance upon you, best anecdotes at the ready. Before you quite know what is happening, they all let loose at once, filling the air with earnest company values and mission statements, each of them competing for your attention. In our search for the best, the task then becomes one of discernment. We want only to work with those who can genuinely delight and entertain, so if we think that a producer might have put some effort into their marketing press than, say, their olive press, we start looking for an excuse to leave.
Experience has shown us that the best producers are often so wrapped up in their craft, that we must seek them out. Fortunately there are clues to be found. Like good anecdotalists at a party, skilled producers have often built a captive audience for themselves already. They do not need to be loud to be heard. Their message come across in a confident, self-assured manner, and their worth is apparent in everything they do. Terre Francescane are such a producer, and their olive oils express themselves simply, but impeccably well.
A family company, the Gradassi’s roots in olive oil go back as far as 1639. Their home region of Umbria is known as the “Green Heart” of Italy, for its lush and verdant countryside, and the quality of the olive trees that grow there. Unique to Umbria, is the fact that it is the only region in Italy that does not have a coastline, or share a border with another country. Whilst not exactly off the beaten track, it is a land that seems to provide a sense of untrammeled solitude, and the residents have had the freedom to hone their traditions over centuries, unconcerned by what their neighbours may be doing. They know the value of the straightforward, and their dishes are stripped back, as a few simple ingredients carry the flavor. Given their long history, we would draw far more attention to the credentials of Terre Francescane, but the thing that impressed us most, and that will impress your customers most, is the quality of the oils themselves.
Each of our seven chosen oils makes a compelling case for itself, though not everyone has the time or inclination to try seven different olive oils all at once. Were an exceptionally determined individual to attempt it, they may find the Gradassi family classic alone, the Centenaria, enough to convince them of their quality. A single estate extra virgin olive oil, Terre Francescane do it well, and exceedingly so. In fact, the fashion powerhouse Trussardi like it so much, they have stamped their seal of approval on the bottle, and exclusively use it in their 2 Michelin star restaurant in Milan, Il Ristorante Trussardi alla Scala. They are not alone in their appreciation. Jason Atherton, Heinz Beck and Nadia Santini are just some of the other Michelin-starred admirers.
As for the flavoured range, they each strike a perfect note between subtlety, balance and complexity.
We have chosen the rosemary, garlic, lemon, basil, orange and chilli. Some flavoured oils can be strong, that they are positively bolshie; they are to subtlety what a drum set is to peace and quiet. The Terre Francescane oils, by comparison, communicate their flavours admirably well, in a way that feels altogether more courteous.
Flavours build and reveal themselves on the palate slowly, with an intriguing complexity. It is as though you are being politely escorted through an olive grove, while your host considerately draws your attention to points of interest. Here, a smattering of garlic. There, a whisper of rosemary. Look a passing hint of basil.
We could continue to place Terre Francescane on this oil-drizzled pedestal for some time yet, but trying for yourself is the best way to be converted. Terre Francescane’s olive oils have impeccable flavor, remarkable quality and effortless chic, and they deserve a place on your shelves.
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