EVOO specialists Bottega 1900 offer an education in variety and terroir
While many of us slosh some ‘cheaper’ olive oil into a pan or drizzle some ‘extra virgin’ over a salad without too much thought, the Northern Beaches-based couple behind Bottega 1900 are working hard behind the scenes to broaden Australian’s understanding of olive oil.
Not only have the Bottega 1900 team hand-picked every small-batch, single-variety Italian EVOO (‘Extra-Virgin-Olive-Oil’) on their roster, they have also curated their oil offerings – with the variants and styles reading like a list of fine wines.
Co-founder and wine sommelier Alice Massaria identified significant similarities between olives and grapes, and this fueled her motivation to help educate her customers’ palates. Travelling from Sicily and Puglia through to Abruzzo, Umbria and Tuscany, Alice found the subtlest of nuances and biodiverse expressions of variety and terroir which are celebrated and deeply respected in Italy. It is this understanding and appreciation that she hopes to pass on to others through Bottega 1900.
Little-known facts about EVOO
Through wars, conquests and the shaky periods of history, olive oil has remained a key part of everyday life in the Mediterranean basin. The Romans spread the techniques of cultivation, pressing and storage throughout their Empire and imposed taxes on olive oil, which led to it being considered a precious commodity.
There are roughly five million hectares of olive groves in the Mediterranean and more than 600 olive varieties in Italy alone, with around 500 being suitable for EVOO production. Each variety brings its own unique characteristics and flavour, such as the fruity Frantoio from Tuscany or the gutsy San Felice from Umbria.
Just as we honour single-vineyard wines and single-origin coffee, so too can we champion the monocultivar EVOOs that are produced by a single variety of olive.
Celebrating EVOO biodiversity
Like most things in life, the incredible diversity of Italian olive oil is something to be applauded and preserved. In fact, Italy boasts the world’s richest olive biodiversity. The complexity of the many distinctive varieties available is deeply entwined with the traditions and history of Italy’s various regions. Different oils are suited to different dishes and offer a different organoleptic experience for the consumer.
Each oil’s unique expression of its native region is so highly regarded that it is protected fiercely, with oils only obtaining certain certifications if produced under strict rules in certain areas. Just like champagne, an EVOO with protected denomination of origin (DOP) status indicates a quality, authentic product.
Focus on ecological sustainability
Bottega 1900 has curated an exclusive network of small, family run, EVOO producers from across Italy who work their land organically and biodynamically. Bottega’s commitment to championing the regional diversity of Italian artisan food and culture means their customers can experience many products never seen before in Australia.
Take Oleificio Guccionewho were the first in the Sicilian region to abandon the traditional extraction system and to focus on processing in a continuous cycle. The olives are delicately picked by hand from the secular trees of the Chiaramonte Gulfi valleys (the balcony of Sicily). Further north in Tuscany’s Chianti region, Giacomo Grassi produces award-winning monocultivar EVOOs driven by the noble goal of enhancing the historic olive oil varieties.
Bottega 1900: A labour of love
Alice Massaria and Enea La Mantia are the husband-and-wife team behind Bottega 1900. As Italian expats now living on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, they aim to share the unique tastes of the many biodiverse regions across Italy with a nod to their traditional, organic roots. Their mission is to pave the way for a new approach of thinking about food, culture, and biodiversity in Australia.