A visit to Marina Colonna's olive grove
Marina Colonna's quality extra virgin olive oil has been a prominent hero in our range from the day we started Sabato.
Her excellent quality oil - and the distinctive anfora bottle bearing the Colonna family's ancient noble crest - are personified by the woman herself.
A very resilient woman, of resourceful character, she became involved in the family farm in the 1980s as she tired of a career in documentary-making. The final straw was a trip to the Amazon where she was the only woman on a dark and threatening jungle journey. Hot, sunny deserts she could handle deftly, but that jungle trip was mainly pitch black and "you never knew what might slither down your neck". She decided to focus on the potential of producing quality extra virgin olive oil instead.
This is also not for the faint-hearted, to which those involved in our local industry can attest. Consistently achieving the high quality Marina has maintained for decades and remaining in business, is a feat accomplished only by very few. Marina Colonna may be the only woman to have achieved this status.
A' Principessa' from a lineage based in Rome with a long and noble history, her estate in Molise has been in the family since the 1800s. It is now 180 hectares with 55 hectares devoted to the many varieties of olives she nurtures like children. About half of these are certified organic, which comes with a lot of extra cost.
Marina is a fearless innovator and her infused oils - which were first in the market in New Zealand, and often the inspiration for copies - have always matched the superb quality of her classic oil. The Granverde (lemon-infused) in particular has been a staple we have enjoyed supplying to many restaurants and domestic kitchens. It is pressed from the skins of hand peeled organic Calabrian and Sicilian lemons along with the olives. She loves it as a finishing oil or with balsamic vinegar. We really must take her a bottle of the Forvm Chardonnay vinegar, as that has long been a favourite combination in New Zealand.
We enjoyed visiting her again. Like a proud parent she showed us around her groves pointing out varieties and individual trees of which she is particularly fond. She noted that the flowering this year is excellent which, barring natural disasters, should mean a good harvest. The necessary water comes from three natural lakes on the property. Nothing is wasted. The olives provide fertiliser and power as well. She turns the pomace (the waste of the paste after crushing for her extra virgin olive oil, often turned into pomace oil by other companies) into compost. This is then used as fertiliser, while the olive stone part of the pomace is separated out and used as fuel for the boilers, which heat the buildings and the water.
I thought to ask what had inspired her unique anfora-shaped bottle, and she laughed and waggled a wooden curtain tassel of the same shape at us.
Simple, pure genius - befitting of the lady herself.