The olive rakes shake off the dried clay coating creating little puffs in the air. This 'dust' is a vital tool against pests as it is the only means to protect olives under organic farming rules. As the puffs increase, more and more olives plop down onto the netting. Some land where they fall and others roll a little distance. The first sight of the netting underneath the trees transforms the landscape and always generate a little frisson of expectation. How many olives will the trees yield? Are they healthy enough to withstand the tumble of harvesting and the arduous gathering of the olive-laden nets?
In October 2023, the beginning of this year's olive oil harvest, there was a quiet, growing confidence that the yield would be better than that of 2022, a pretty disastrous harvest year for us. Intense, irregular heatwaves and a lack water brought the realities of climate change home. Since then we have introduced irrigation to all our olive groves and introduced a rigorous and precise feeding scheme so that the trees get the correct nourishing and water throughout the year for them to flourish.
The harvesters arrived with brand new equipment and we were unceremoniously ditched from the team. Mechanized net unrolling and gathering, followed by a large suction pipe that picked up the olives from the nets and into the olive sorter eliminated much of the back-breaking work. It also reduced the amount of olive handling that was inevitable with our previously manual sorting process. The olives kept falling and a record number of containers were taken to the mills. Containers brimming with super healthy olives!
The first inkling of not only quantity, but quality too, came from the ripeness tests of the olives. When the first Aglandau olive test results were returned from the laboratory, the report mentioned that the samples were 'perfect specimens of the Aglandau variety'. And so it continued with our other varieties, both the Salonenque and Grossane. Particularly the Grossane, the variety we usually see as interesting for blending, this year stood on its own with powerful aromas and was particular flavourful.
We present two blends this year from our trees to your table: the classic Domaine de Gerbaud and its little sibling, Petit Oli pour les Enfants. The Domaine de Gerbaud BIO AOP Provence is a half green/half medium fruity extra virgin olive oil with herbacious, raw artichoke, almond and hazelnut aromas. This is a quality olive oil with harmonious aromas and a subtle touch of bitterness and ardor.
Petit Oli pour les Enfants BIO AOP Provence is also a blend using the traditional Provençal varieties. A softer, yet complex fruity olive oil with full-bodied aromas blended from Grossane and Aglandau varieties. Of course this blend could also appeal to adults for dishes that require a more delicate olive oil, but kids will dress their salads, and pour it over their vegetables and pastas with relish.