The history of oil in Brisighella has ancient roots, and the rudimentary family oil mill discovered in the excavations at Pieve del Thò dates back to the first century A.D.
In 1594, Andrea Giovanni Callegari, Bishop of Bertinoro, stated the following in reference to the Lamone Valley: “The air, the water, the wines, oils and fruits are so good and flavoursome that have no equal in all the other regions”.
The hillocks exposed to and protected against the cold winds make this zone on the edge of the olive cultivation area on the Atlantic side an extremely interesting case. The main variety cultivated is “Nostrana di Brisighella”.
In the 1970s, the Cooperativa Agricola Brisighellese, (CAB – Brisighella Agricultural Cooperative) was formed, under the aegis of which local olive growers constructed a modern community olive mill.
The Cooperative was able enhance and consolidate the product, achieving the highest levels of quality and authenticity, and brought together 90% of the producers in the area.
The bottles used were numbered to analytically guarantee their quality, which is due to the particular heritage of the flavours and fragrances attained by this type of olive, which has a reduced yield. It also due to the skilful and pioneering cold pressing processes carried out in the company olive mill.
The olives, which are predominantly of the type Nostrana di Brisighella, cover a surface area of around 300 hectares. The olives are picked at the right point of ripening, and the harvest is carried out by hand through brucatura (stripping), but at the same time mechanical aids are used for shaking them.Deliveries are made to the mill on a daily basis in small containers.
For 40 years, the extraction of the oil has been carried out using the Sinolea method (by percolation) at a controlled temperature, which guarantees absolute qualitative diversity. The whole production process rigorously and consistently follows the proper stages to obtain the excellent and special quality of the oil.
In 1996 the European Union granted DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status to the extra-virgin olive oil from Brisighella, with the name “Brisighella DOP”.
The olives are first washed and any twigs or leaves remaining in the harvest are removed by blowing them with air. The washing is carried out with a special vibrating machine, producing perfectly clean olives.
The next stage is the pressing, a mechanical operation that breaks the olives up by crushing them. When cells of the pulp break, they release drops of oil from the vacuoles.At this point, to prevent oil being lost, ‘gramolazione’ must be carried out.
This entails slowly and constantly stirring the olive oil paste in order to encourage the small drops spread throughout the oil to accumulate in order to make them bigger. To maximise this accumulation, hot water (25°) circulates around the cavity of the ‘gramola’ frame. The gramolazione lasts between 20 and 40 minutes.
After the gramolazione, the solid part (pomace) and the liquid part (oil and water) of the paste must be separated using a two-stage system: the first is percolation (sinolea method) and the second is centrifugation (decanter method).
Extraction of the oil from the oil pulp using the percolation system is made possible through the different interfacial tensions of the oil and the vegetation water in relation to the steel blade that separates the oily must from the solid part.
The decanter, conversely, is a horizontal centrifuge that receives the pulp discharge from sinolea, which is partly oil-free. After light gramolazione, it is put into the decanter, from which the last percentage of oil-must comes out, as does the pomace to be sent to the sansifìcio (factory for processing olive residue) or to be returned to the olive groves as a corrective organic fertilizer.
The oil and the vegetation water in the oil-must are now separated through centrifugation, which is carried out with self-cleaning centrifuges, which move the automatic discharge of the pulp fragments and separates the water from the oil. The oil is ready to be consumed (though it has a “Wild Fruity” flavour).
The portion of “vegetation water” is immediately taken to the fields, where it is used as fertigation in the same olive groves it came from. The oil is deposited into stainless steel containers and stored in the warehouse at 15 °C.
While it is resting in the steel tanks, natural oil sedimentation occurs (precipitation of the few solid particles in suspension). As such, the oil changes from cloudy to opalescent after being racked into another container to get rid of the solid deposit.
The oil is poured into dark glass bottles (light is harmful to the oil) of various sizes, with the number and type linked to the various selections and the different crus.
The area that produces and processes the olives destined to be used for Brisighella DOP extra-virgin olive oil is that stipulated by the Production Specifications, and includes almost all of the administrative territory of the municipality of Brisighella and parts of the municipalities of Faenza, Riolo Terme, Casola, Valsenio and Modigliana.
This region is noted for its suitability for olive cultivation, because of its special climate and orographic features. The Chalk Vein of Romagnoli and the formation of the wide valleys provide shelter from the cold bora winds, while the scirocco winds channel into the same valley and push the clouds towards the plain.
All this has helped create a suitable microclimate for growing olives.This cultivation was then adapted over the centuries (historical artefacts trace its presence back to Roman times), by selecting the germplasm present in the cultivar “Nostrana di Brisighella”, which together with the pollinator variety “Ghiacciola”, make up the unique cultivation situation that resulted in the DOP classification.
Curator — Consorzio di tutela della denominazione di origine protetta Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva Brisighella