Merico Maria Rosa’s family first produced olive oil in 1700. Today, her daughter Marta cultivates a grove over 500 years old (many of the trees are protected by UNESCO), where the olives are hand picked and pressed within eight hours of the harvest. It may sound a little over the top, but I swear a farm with this kind of history—especially one where the children are still very passionate about making an oil with great flavor—creates a different kind of food. It's very in touch with its surroundings and the terroir of its area.
Marta's farm's 200-year tradition sits on top of a Puglian history, one that has evidence of olive cultivation from 5,000 years ago. With a loaf of Paesano close at hand—Zingerman's version of the traditional bread of Puglia—and perhaps a bit of wild chicory and a deep dish of Piana degli Ulivi at the ready, you’ll have everything you need to pretend you're enjoying an afternoon in the south of Italy.
The fall 2011 harvest of this extra virgin olive oil has big, olive-y flavor: one of my colleagues described it as tasting like "a martini without the alcohol." It tastes slightly bitter, with notes of wheat and a thick, creamy texture. It ends with a small peppery kick. A great oil for someone who loves green olives.