The queen of Aglianico del Vulture, Elena Fucci, is a young and passionate entrepreneur, not only leading her winery with results of absolute excellence (her Titolo is one of the best Italian wines) but she also manage the olive grove, which although not extensive (just under 2 hectares with 600 plants) it is well cared for. The Olio & Vino award in the Gambero Rosso Oli d'Italia guide goes to her and her company.
What were the main milestones in your story that led you to these results?
Our experience was born in the world of wine. In 2000, at the time there was talk of selling the family vineyards and olive groves. These were lands that I decided to maintain and enhance by studying viticulture and oenology. We started with only 1,200 bottles of wine, produced in the renovated cellar located below the family home, and a few quintals of olive oil for family use (families in the south, we know, are very large!). The experience of olive oil, bottled and marketed, however, was born in recent years. We entered this sector with a lot of humility because the world of olive oil is very different from the world of wine, there is still a lot to do for its promotion and culture.
How is this level of quality achieved?
The path was characterised by study, my university days studying Agriculture certainly facilitated, especially in achieving the goal of obtaining very high quality that can be repeated over time, as I was able to do with my wines for years. Over the past 5 years we have focused on the bottled version, our Titolo, an extra virgin olive oil bottled in half-litre containers, which aims for high quality and reflects our territory. The course as an Oil Sommelier was also very fascinating and educational, which allowed for further study on the organoleptic qualities and beyond of an olive oil.
What are the most obvious obstacles are you facing on the commercial front?
There have been commercial obstacles in the past and I believe there will also be in the future, also considering the changing nature of the market. The world of wine and olive oil are very complicated and demanding, and now communication has the same importance as production.
So there's communication work to be done.
Unfortunately, on average, it is not well known how the work of the vineyard/olive grove or cellar and oil mill is carried out. And for this reason, to enhance the product, it is necessary to communicate and explain what we do and how we do it, also to justify the costs that certainly diverge from an "industrial" product. The sector magazines in recent years have always helped us a lot, because they allow us to shine a light on the realities dedicated to quality and above all on those medium-small producers that otherwise, with their own strength, could not be able to reach a wide audience. Oftentimes, for regions like mine, we need to make people understand where we are geographically, as well as having difficulties in accessing technology and infrastructure.
In your opinion, what are the actions necessary to improve the olive oil sector?
In my opinion it is no coincidence that very often it is the wineries that undertake this path in the world of olive oil. The world of wine is certainly far ahead in terms of the quality of the products and above all of its communication and promotion. Not only that: also in regulatory and legislative terms, in the wine world there are much more restrictive rules that aim to stress traceability and quality of the products. It is necessary to continue with education in the world of olive oil, creating interest and attention in future consumers.
So has there been a slower evolution?
Unfortunately this sector is in an impasse because historically it has a very different path than wine does (despite having both products been for a very long time foods before a hedonistic products), where olive oil was heavily subsidised with the famous "additions" for decades, which did not stimulate entrepreneurs to do better because the lack of income was already filled by the State. Although these additions still exist today (probably to a lesser extent), the olive oil entrepreneurs have certainly rolled up their sleeves and we can finally admire an "awakening" of this world that I find extremely fascinating.
How do you think the communication of quality extra virgin olive oil should be changed or improved?
The answer on how to increase the notoriety of our EVOOS is already in the question: quality. For us Italians, olive oil has always been something produced at home, for family use, and often no work was done on quality. It is therefore crucial to identify this process of improvement, looking for example for the right degree of ripeness of the olives (i.e. earlier than when our grandparents harvested them), the type of extraction most suitable for the types of olives in use, and all other aspects that determine the final quality of the product.
Obviously without neglecting to communicate to the public these aspects and these new interpretations of making olive oil. Unfortunately, even today the main discriminating factor in choosing an extra virgin olive oil is the price. Few actually know what is behind the production of a quality olive oil, it is unthinkable to have an olive oil at €3 per litre. This is because there is always poor communication of the actual yield of an olive tree, the necessary processing and so on.
What is your approach to the concept of environmental sustainability?
Our approach to sustainability is a journey born many years ago, already with the construction of the new company cellar, the first project in bio-architecture and sustainability in southern Italy: a cellar built with up-cycled and recycled materials, in a closed cycle, where all the the energy we produce is used in the company, recovering rainwater for agronomic uses. We foster a broad concept of sustainability that also concerns our vineyards and olive groves conducted in a certified organic regime for which we use predictive weather control unit systems, in order to minimise field work and organic treatments on crops. Lastly, we also bring sustainability in the packaging phase, which we recycle and reuse as much as possible in new uses in the company - or in mobility, with the use of electric cars that we recharge with the energy produced by our solar panel systems.
Elena Fucci - Barile (PZ) - Contrada Solagna Del Titolo - 320 487 9945 - elenafuccivini.com
by Indra Galbo