Sunday, October 10, 2010

Podere Pornanino For Tuscan Olive Oil

There’s time to squeeze in another tale from the 2010 Summer Fancy Food Show at NYC’s Jacob Javitz Center. I had the pleasure of meeting Francesco and Lia Lombardi, their daughter and son-in-law, who told me of their family business and the center of their lives: olive oil production at Podere Pornanino in Radda in Chianti.

During the last week of November, workers in the chilly Tuscan air will be leaning on ladders propped against 4,000 olive trees. Picking each olive by hand and tossing them into baskets, they will carry on the centuries-old brucatura method of olive harvesting. The olive trees at Podere Pornanino are of four varieties: Frantoio, Pendolino, Moraiolo and Leccino, which together create the distinctive flavor of Pornanino Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Francesco, Lia and family personally bottle the oil on site.

Originally from Milan, Francesco Lombardi bought Pornanino in 1989 as a tranquil place for him and his wife to retire. They looked forward to nurturing their small number of fruit trees and prolific vegetable garden in the Chianti hills. Set between Radda, Castellina and Vagliagli, they chose a property bordered by two rivers with views that go on forever. All seemed complete and blissfully uneventful. But one day Francesco discovered that his property included an abandoned olive grove of about 500 trees. Intrigued, he brought the orchard back to life and harvested the olives. After a visit to the public olive press, he enjoyed Pornanino’s first Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

This experience inspired Francesco and Lia to launch a new phase in their lives. They planted another 3,500 olive trees and purchased a renovated stone wheel press. They renovated the barn and placed the press inside. At harvest time, the mill slowly crushes the olives, bringing out their fragrance and sweetness. Pornanino is one of only 14 companies in all of Tuscany that still uses a stone mill. The extra-virgin olive oil is extracted from the resulting paste by applying high pressure rather than heat. This heat-free method allows the oil to retain its prized sensory and nutritional characteristics. This process is slower than more modern methods, but the resulting flavor is worth the wait. The enterprise increased and, six years ago, their daughter Francesca and her husband Matteo joined the family at Pornanino.

They have also created a line of bar soaps made with extra virgin olive oil. This lightly fragranced soap lathers well and is a treat for the skin and nose.

In addition to the olive groves and woodlands on the estate, the family restored other farm structures and created beautiful villa apartments for tourist holidays. Every Tuesday morning, Francesco gives a seminar for guests on olive oil.

To learn more, including how to purchase the products and enjoy the apartments, visit

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