Azienda Madonna dell'Olivo
Antonino Mennella's olive groves at Madonna dell'Olivo in Serre, Cilento are in a very special place on the sloping hills between the mountains and the sea. This is a unique microclimate. The trees themselves are special too. Many are over 100 years old and Antonino is particularly careful to look after them as many of them are rare and unusual varieties: Carpellese and Rotondella for example. But he has other great varieties such as Ravece and Itrana.
His oil takes its name from the church behind his olive mill where there is an ancient wooden carving of the Madonna holding an olive branch. The church is a sanctuary dedicated to the story of how a vision of the Madonna appeared in an olive tree. Antonino has the Madonna as his beautiful prize-winning logo. On the other side of his mill are the olive groves which ensures that his olives are picked and processed immediately.
Antonino is a geologist and a teacher so whenever you visit his mill he kindly explains with great ability and, if you should wish so, with great attention to technical detail all the aspects of the extraction process. But one of the most important things about Antonino is that he is a disciple of the great Veronelli who was a food and wine writer and who believed that oil production should follow in the footsteps of wine. This means careful choice of varieties of olives which, like grape varieties, express all sorts of different flavour profiles. This combination of being a scientist and being a follower of Veronelli means that his oils are made with a maniacal attention to detail. It was Veronelli who thought that making oil without the pits might beneficial. Not everyone agrees with this theory and there are great oils out there made with pits but Antonino makes superb oils using his depitting machine which he says increases polyphenols (which are so good for us and ensure a longer shelf life) as well as intensity of flavour and aroma. Antonino is one of the few producers to write the polyphenols on the back of every bottle that he produces.
True to the sprit of the Cilento, Antonino makes you feel at home when you visit him. You are not a tourist but a guest.
- translation by Johnny Madge