The sad tale of the 2016 olive harvest

by Laura Gray on January 15, 2017

Well, to say that 2016 was an excruciating harvest for our olives is an understatement. Almost everything that could go wrong did in one way or another.

An absolute absence of below freezing temperatures in winter 2015/2016 meant that we did not enjoy the benefit of sterilizing cold which would have been more than welcome. The combination of the hottest ever April and driest ever May interfered with the fruit set, seriously compromising the number of olives on the trees. And if that wasn’t enough, every oil-themed conversation this summer mentioned the Return of The Dreaded Olive Fly, the scourge of 2014 production of Italian EVOO (you may remember this was the year in which we did not produce olive oil). By the end of August 2016 many Montalcino producers had decided not to pick their olives at all. At Il Palazzone we monitored the groves constantly and spent many a tedious day treating the trees with organic Kaolin clayWe brought the harvest forward to the end of October, so the olives were green and hard. As a result the yield in oil was terrifically low; just 8%. So it’s hardly surprising that our total production this year was just 618 bottles. Fewer olives on the trees to begin with, not all groves picked for fear of the Fly and an early pick resulting in low yield of oil. To be honest it was a heart-breaking and very expensive experience. We decided to make several additional analyses before bottling our oil because although we did everything that we could to make the best possible oil given the season, any drop in quality would have been unacceptable. We have a great 2016 oil; both in terms of acidity and a the complete absence of animal protein (just in case you were wondering what the Fly turns into) and we received the IGP certification

In 2016  Tuscan oil production has dropped by 30% and local prices  increased by 14%.

Even for those of us lucky enough to live in this land of fine wines and oil, finding that elusive “olio buono” has become more and more of a challenge.  Our entire 2016 production was sent to the members of Club100.

Mercifully 2017 will be another story – ten days of below zero temperatures have acted as a natural insecticide and we can look forward to a fly-free year.

 

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