A "well oiled" party: The new Zuelo Novello harvest from Familia Zuccardi.

I love this time of the year in Mendoza. Cool nights, still warm afternoons, the first snowfalls of the year can be seen afar on the mountain tops. As fall unveils a languid transition into winter, and the vineyard´s foliage turns red, the last red grapes are being harvest. March and April is also harvest time for olive oil producers, that, as old as winemaking tradition, is still an eclipsed activity.

Snow-capped Andes views from the Zuccardi Estate

 Like old tales that later become legend, how Argentina become an olive oil producing country is cunning...The first olive groves were planted in the mid 1.500s as the Spanish conquerors founded forts, villages and missions alongside the central Andean provinces. Over time, production grew, the groves blossomed with the high desert sunshine and olive oil became part of everyday life for the colony. In the late 1.600s, fearing competition, the Spaniards decided that the colony should no longer produce its own olive oil, and a royal decree stated the procedure for tearing off all the olive trees they themselves had introduced, creating a special army squad for this purpose.

Old trunks - 200 years old and still producing!

All groves were destroyed except this one small tree that an old lady hided under her skirts in Almogasta, La Rioja. The legend tells that this particular olive tree was the father of Argentina's first and only native species, the Arauco varietal. Argentina now has over 275,000 acres of olive groves, produces around 100,000 tons of olive oil and is one of the premium producers exporting to around 30 countries worldwide.

But it is not all about wine at Familia Zuccardi winery these days. This far sighted operation started its own olive oil division more than a decade ago, the rudder manned by young agronomist and olive expert Miguel Zuccardi. Today, with 650 acres implanted with 8 different olive varietals, the idea of this project is to bring this ancient, generic product into a new dimension.

Extracting oil at Zuccardi´s facility

Thanks to a new, state-of-the-art centrifugal process, Zuccardi is able to produce, just like in wine, extra virgin varietal oils and blends, that continues to win local and international awards as one of the best producers in Argentina. Imagine the broad spectrum of flavors, intensities and aromas that this offers to chefs, gourmands and consumers.

Chocolate truffles with Zuelo olive oil at Pan y Oliva restaurant
So, back to the party, Zuccardi family organized an open house at their olive oil facility last Sunday to celebrate and showcase the new harvest. Impeccably organized by resident Chef Matias Aldassoro, and the presence of renown local chefs and bakers, olive oil of course as one of the main ingredients in their dishes. 
Miguel Zuccardi with the very first press of 2013 - Zuelo Novello

However there is more to the visiting experience than the guided tasting of their oils. Julia Zuccardi, responsible of the hospitality, tourism and restaurants area of the company, tells us that a day of harvesting starts with coffee before picking your own olives and pressing them to make your bespoke olive oil which is bottled and ready to enjoy over lunch and take home. You can tour around their compact olive press and if you are visiting during the olive season (April – May) you can see the process in action or take part in harvesting.

The small, compact press for tour participants - Take your own olive oil home!
The shabby-chic restaurant has an unparalleled olive-based menu. Their healthy, deli style menu has delightful dishes like beetroot and goat's cheese pancakes with green olive paste; blue cheese, olive, rocket and Portobello mushroom salad dressed in Arauco olive oil; and also more surprising dishes but equally as delicious like raspberries with olive sorbet; and olive oil and dark chocolate torte.
Different breads to pair with varietal oils
The olive is a tree that symbolizes peace and tranquility. This plant has accompanied us for at least 7.000 years, buy mystery and uncertainity is all arround this tree, leaving in the dark all the lessons that we could learn from it..., at least untill now.

The author with wine enthusiast Emilia Armando and Big Kahuna and friend José Alberto Zuccardi
For a truly gourmet olive oil experience and hands-on harvesting Zuccardi is one of the best places to visit. Rounded off with one of Zuccardi great wines and a coffee in the attractive garden overlooking the olive groves, makes a perfect olive day out! And, only if you get lucky, a glimpse of their distilling facility and a glass of their exclusive tempranillo´s grappa as a digestive treat!

For tours enquires please contact Rosell and Soler Wine and Art Tours at info@rosellsoler.com or Discover the Andes at info@discovartheandes.com

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