Terroir Puglia: De Carlo Organic Olive Oil

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Tenuta Torre di Mossa Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Olio De Carlo in Puglia

I recently visited the southern Italian region Puglia with a handful of others to discover its wine, food, and cultural offerings. Based in the port town Bari, we set off each of five mornings with a packed agenda. This article focuses on Olio De Carlo, an organic Olive Oil producer just outside Bari.

Wondering where Puglia is? This narrow and long strip runs 425 km from its northern border with Molise to the bottom of the Italian peninsula. Puglia is known as the heal of Italy collared by the gleaming Adriatic sea to the east. The coastline boasts town after picturesque town, Bari is one of them with about 327,000 people.

Puglia ItalyIf you’ve been to Puglia I’ll bet you recall the whitewashed buildings, beautiful Mediterranean landscape and trulli scattering the countryside. Everywhere you look you see olive trees thus it’s not surprising Puglia produces upwards of 40% of Italy’s olive oil. Interesting to note the region is also the largest producer of Durum wheat in Italy from which a multitude of pasta, breads, and bread products are made including Orecchiette. Visiting old town Bari we observed village ladies making this famous pasta which An American In Rome wrote about here.

Taralli Puglia

One of my favorites Italian snack items, especially good with an aperitif is the crunchy (and addictive) Taralli.

Olio De Carlo

After sufficiently caffeinated with espresso, macchiato, and/or cappuccino… they so hit the spot several of us had more than one 😋 … we set off to discover Apulian olive oil.

Olio De Carlo sits in Bitritto, the village where it all started in 1598. Land acquisition for olive trees began in 1611. And following suit after years of processing olives off-site they built their first on-site oil mill in 1668. Experts?!? I think so!

A Country Farm

Today a total of 120 hectares with 25,000 olive trees are farmed organically at De Carlo. The two primary varieties, Ogliarola Barese and Coratina grow under the DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) “Terra di Bari – Bitonto”, a now historic zone. This guarantees the oil is obtained from the processing of these two varieties only in Bari in Puglia.

Puglia alone has roughly 60 million olive trees! The gnarly trunk of this 500 year old tree is quite the contrast to the tree on the right, just 10 years and counting.

Under the trees and in various spots on the property they cultivate vegetables- eggplant, artichokes, cherry tomatoes, Lampascioni, and turnips tops- for preservation with their organic olive oil. Note while they eat the turnips, the greens are prized in Puglia! Lampascioni are small onions similar in size to Cipollini but they’re the bulbs of a wild hyacinth flower.

Irrigation You Say?!?

The company has always been managed by the De Carlo family with Saverio De Carlo at the helm since 1980. After years of harvest, tasting and observation he installed irrigation systems in their groves believing trees need water in order to make the finest quality oil. They irrigate only when needed during summer months when temperatures frequently reach 40° Celsius (104° Fahrenheit). Quite the pioneers they were the first to do so!

At 76, Saverio is still quite active. His wife Grazia, daughter Marina and son Francesco are prominent in day-to-day activities and overall management of the company. It’s about tradition and innovation for this hard working family committed to producing the highest quality product possible.

Puglia Extra Virgin Olive Oil Organic

Spending time with Saverio and Marina De Carlo in their olive grove was super educational, and relaxing at the same time. Such gracious people!

Hot, Hot, Hot!

During our tour of the olive grove we passed a hot pepper garden where Saverio proudly picked several. After a few of us touched them Saverio cautioned us sharing the outside of this particular pepper is very hot and to wash our hands before touching anything. I processed a fair amount of hot peppers in the past but never felt the sting from the outside before! Ouuuch!

Italian spicy red peppers

Saverio showing us his prized peppers.

Harvest Time!

We started our visit smack in the middle of harvest. When I say in the middle, we literally were in the middle.

Harvest runs October through December. As olives are harvested, they immediately process them believing time is of the essence for top quality oil. 

The Freshest Oil You’ve Tasted

Tasting extra virgin olive oil at Olio DeCarlo Bari ItalyFelice Garibaldi – A medium bodied oil with a buttery texture, green herbs and a light peppery finish. A perfect start for anyone new to olive oil. It’s rich yet has a soft bitter finish. While you could cook with it that’d be a waste. I’d rather pull up a chair, grab my favorite baguette and dip, dip, dip!

Tenuta Terre di Mossa – 100% Coratina this oil is a green tour-de-force, potent with spicy pepper and a bitter almond finish. Not an oil for cooking but a finishing oil that melts into dishes- think drizzle on, over or around for added flavor and dimension. In fact this oil, Torre di Mossa is the gold standard for intense fruity olive oil from Italy.

Our third oil was a surprise: a blend of both olives harvested and pressed that morning no more than two hours old! All oils are stone crushed and cold extracted. Talk about a rich and creamy mouth feel with a potent bitter finish! I was definitely wowed.

Olio De Carlo olive oil preserved vegetable products

 

While their entire operation is organic, just two levels of oil and two vegetable products are certified. The cost of certifying and the required organic packaging seal is expensive thus they chose to certify only a few products for exportation markets.

A Little of This and That

Our visit concluded with a little of this and that- Marina shared a sampling of their tapenades and vegetable products served with locally made bread, Taralli and Buratta cheese. I think I’m in love with turnip tops and Burrata drizzled with olive oil!

The De Carlo family and their extra virgin olive oils will make you fall in love with Puglia.

Marina De Carlo Bari Italy organic extra virgin olive oilsYou can find De Carlo oils in the US through Olive Oil Lovers and other stores. But I recommend making a trip to Bari to experience this in person! It’s a quick flight from Rome via AlItalia and RyanAir will start flying non-stop from Bordeaux to Bari April 2019.

A huge thank you to the De Carlo family, Radici del Sud and Nicola Campanile for their hospitality!

 

8 thoughts on “Terroir Puglia: De Carlo Organic Olive Oil

  1. Lauren Walsh

    Wonderful travelogue, Lynn! Looks like your time in Puglia was chock-full of good food, good wine, and good company. Especially love the photo of the old olive tree. And, by the way, you and Marina share a remarkable resemblance – sisters or cousins perhaps?! Thanks for the mid-week trip to southern Italy!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Glad you enjoyed it Lauren! It was indeed packed with goodness as you say, highly recommend the area… has so much to offer. I’ll have to take a close up girl-pic with Marina next time I’m there!

      Reply
  2. Jane

    What a fun trip! You peaked my curiosity, not only to order some olive oil (huge fan of tasting olive oils) and another destination for the travel bucket list! Love the 500 year old olive tree next to the 10 year old tree. Thanks for sharing your adventure!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Was an extraordinary trip! Glad your curiosity is churning, hope you get to Bari and Olio De Carlo, such a lovely family 😉

      Reply
  3. Teri

    Wow, I absolutely love good olive oil but have never tasted a freshly pressed, just hours old oil. That must have been fantastic! I can get great oils in Chicago where I live but how fantastic would it be to visit a family like De Carlo and taste their oils. I’m putting a visit to them during their next harvest (so I can taste new oil 😉 on my travel wish list!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      I hope you do get to Bari and De Carlo to taste their oils! There is also so much to see, do and taste in the area. If you need tips, give me a shout, happy to share.

      Reply

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