Olio Garda DOP: when the land bears fruit
The climate and the morphological features of Lake Garda were already well-known in ancient times. In 835 an abbot from the Bobbio monastery of San Colombano wrote “Garda deputavit ad oleum” (Garda identifies with olive growing). Although ancient Romans already knew and appreciated the properties of olive oil, this refined product especially gained importance during the Early Middle Ages. A 643 edict showed the care and protection given to this particular cultivation: the damage of the olive trees of the lake villages was liable to a heavy fine.
The monks particularly contributed to the agricultural development of the Garda area. As a matter of fact after the fall of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions, the farmland of the region was in a state of abandon. Agriculture later recovered tanks to the political stabilisation with the Lombards’ guidance; the presence of the monks was also important: between the eighth and the ninth century the olive trees plantation had a significant upturn thanks to the numerous estates of the San Zeno monastery of Verona and the Bobbio monastery of San Colombano. The olive oil extracted from the olive tree fruits was used not only in food and medical industry but also during religious rituals. At that time the Garda olive oil was already a high quality product, but a few people used it as a foodstuff as “4-6 kg of olive oil was worth as much as a big pig”.
Monaco dell'Eremo San Giorgio
On the other hand during the Renaissance olive tree plantations were rearranged through a terracing system over the lake that lasts still today, known since 1968 as “Riviera degli Ulivi”.
The Garda olive oil has increasingly raised its fame and in 1997 it was registered under the European Union scheme of geographical indications and traditional specialities known as “Denominazione di Origine Protetta” (Protected Designation of origin). Today it forms part of the first five products of the Italian PDO olive oil list.
The lake shore holds numerous oil mills. The monks of San Giorgio Hermitage produce their olive oil too, through nine hectares of olive tree groves, including centuries-old olive trees; it further testifies the historic connection the monks have with this refined product.
“ Ulivi del Garda tanto umani! Magri, svelti, con tronco diviso, senza mole, tutti respiro e attenzione, ariosi e ingegnosi, non superano di troppo la statura dell’uomo. Si lasciano cogliere una parte dei frutti dal braccio alzato” Gabriele d’Annunzio
Territorio e uliveti
The Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva Garda DOP comes from different areas of Lake Garda; they can be divided into three categories – “Bresciano”, “Orientale” and “Trentino” – depending on the specific production area.
It’s common knowledge that the Olive Tree (Olea europaea) grows in the hottest and driest areas of the Mediterranean as it does not need too much water but just sun.
The Garda olive oil plantations are the northernmost ones in the world: it depends on the particular Garda microclimate ; the lake makes the climate Mediterranean while the surrounding mountains make it mild by protecting the area from the cold winds.
Garda production areas
Garda olive trees thus form part of a unique system giving their olive oil specific features: it is delicate and fruity and it has excellent organoleptic properties. This olive oil comes from the most common types of olive tree of the area: Casaliva, Frantoio and Leccino. Casaliva in particular is the Lake Garda native variety. The three varieties must form at least the 55% of the local olive tree groves, while the remaining 45% can include other varieties.
Olio Garda DOP
The olio Extra Vergine di Oliva Garda DOP is produced through mechanical and physical processes allowing to preserve the qualities of the fruit. The productive process starts with the harvest taking place every year within the 15th of January. Once the harvest is completed, the different work phases start within five days. The outcome is a delicate and fruity olive oil, with a slightly bitter and spicy flavour and a sweet almond aftertaste; you will love the balanced scents of herbs, hay and artichoke. It is light and easy to digest, its main feature is the very low sourness. It is a versatile olive oil which perfectly matches with all kind of dishes, from easy salads to elaborate meat or fish dishes; it enhances their taste without modifying it or drowning it out. The protection consortium and its procedural guideline guarantee the high quality of the product and all the features mentioned above. Only the producers following this guideline can register their olive oil under the “Garda DOP” scheme (PDO).
The numbers of the Olio Extravergine Garda DOP Protection Consortium
The procedural guideline establishes the admitted varieties, the registration of the olive tree groves, the productive areas and the maximum production admitted for each hectare, together with the organoleptic and chemical parameters. This phase is followed by a planning of tests, organoleptic analysis by expert tasters and sale standards. Finally, according to the guideline, the olio Garda DOP must have the following features:
Museo dell’olio and oil mills
The perfect place to deepen your knowledge of this product of excellence is the Museo dell’olio in Bardolino.
Here you can find all kind of information about the plantation and all the phases of the productive process.
The museum holds old and unknown instruments used in the oil mills between the eighteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, such as the majestic oak wood manual press machine; there are also other tools and furnishing dating back to different ages. Discover more through the museums page.
Detailed information about the Garda DOP Protection Consortium and its products are available on www.oliogardadop.it.