Adopt an Olive Tree in Tuscany

DSCF2524Own an olive tree in Tuscany : medieval meets marketing at Il Palazzone

My husband, Marco, an indigenous Montalcinoman of his context, and I have been running the Il Palazzone estate together since 2007. Marco is a medievalist when it comes to agriculture and, when faced with a choice between old-fashioned labour intensive methods and modern technology, he will always plump for the former. We decided to make a top quality oil, picking very early and by hand. Harvesting before the olives fully mature — as early as October  — results in a much  smaller yield of much higher quality oil. The day's harvest is taken to the award-winning Frantoio Franci press within hours of being picked. Our yield in 2009 was under 9kg of olive oil for every 100kg of olives picked. In two words: economic hara-kiri. As we filtered and bottled our first harvest of certified IGP Toscana oil (2008) it became clear that our oil required a particular marketing approach. We didn’t make enough to justify attending shows or doing a campaign of samples – and yet we couldn’t rely on visitors to the property buying up 700 bottles a year… Our production costs are ridiculously high – and oil, unlike wine (the estate produces Brunello di Montalcino) does not improve with the passing of time. We needed to find people who would understand and appreciate our decisions regarding the quality of our oil, and in return, offer them the opportunity to be part of the process and benefit in the results.

And one sleepless night, Club100 took shape.

Members of Club100 “own” an olive tree for a year. A local artist paints ceramic plaques which are hung on the trees so owners literally have their name on their own tree. They receive a certificate with GPS coordinates – and of course they have visiting rights. Throughout the year we send photographs and harvest reports and, most importantly, members receive three 500 ml bottles of fresh wonderful oil within weeks of bottling. Many of our members are from overseas and, once they have tried the delights of  “olio novo” they can’t imagine how they coped with the year-old oils that are usually available to them. I know that our members enjoy their slice of Tuscany, and think of Il Palazzone when they dress a salad or drizzle on bread – and this gives me enormous pleasure. It also means that we can carry on making our oil in the best possible way, cutting no corners when it comes to quality. P2080274 "Nearly all members have been on the property, either before or since becoming members of the property and when I walk through the grove with my children it is like walking amongst friends." Membership costs 100 Euros plus shipping charges. Thanks to Laura Gray for guest posting on this fantastic project! For information regarding Club100, please contact laura@ilpalazzone.com