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The Millers Series: Giancarlo Bonamini from Olio Bonamini

We love Olive Oil.

And really, we should. We know the land where it comes from. We have felt the breeze through the hills. We have sat in the shade of its trees. We have smelled the scent of the blossoms and then were there to pick the fruit when it was just right. And when the oil came out of the press, we were there to taste it. But beyond the terroir, what really makes the difference, or rather who – is the miller. The man or woman, who with love, passion, science and gut creates for us – liquid gold. So, actually it’s them we love.

This is the third in our series of mini-interviews with our partners, the artisan farmers who bring us some of the most amazing EVOO available on the planet. We think that once  you know them like we do, you too will feel the love. Today we meet Giancarlo Bonamini who runs Olio Bonamini in the Veneto Valpolicella region. This year, Bonamini has again won the award for Best DOP Extra Virgin in the “Delicate” category from Flos Olei – the guide to the world’s best extra virgin olive oil.

1. Name, first and last:  Giancarlo Bonamini

2. Where were you born?  Tregnago (Verona) on October 22nd, 1970.

3. How has the place where you were born influenced who and how you are?  I was born 6 km from where I grew up in Illasi, a small farming town in a family of farmers.  My life seemed destined to take the same path of many farmer’s children that take over their family’s business without changing it in any way.  Perhaps the environment that I grew up in pushed me to look outward, to see how and what was happening in other regions. And then the desire to fight against the “well, we have always done it this way” attitude that dominated almost every decision.

4. What did you study?  I have a diploma in Agrictultural Sciences from the Istituto Professionale di Caldiero (Verona) and a degree in “Food Industry Management” from the faculty of Economics and Business at the Università di Verona.

5. Were your studies connected at all to your future work?   I would say so!

6. How old were you when you knew that making EVOO was your mission?  In my final exams in Agricultural Sciences, we were asked to examine an agricultural product, its cultivation, its transformation and finally its commercialization. It wasn’t material that we had discussed during the school year and both the students and the professors were taken aback. I wrote three pages on olives and its oil in a very precise and detailed manner, with information so technical that those conducting the exam were a little shocked. I thought to myself, if I am able to write this well about olives and oil after just a few distracted visits to the mill during the harvest then maybe, just maybe, if I dedicate myself and my time completely to this, I could really achieve something.

7. What is your favourite dish prepared with your EVOO? Bonamini extra virgin with Italian parsley and fresh garlic as a dressing on white fish.

8. What makes your EVOO different from others produced in your region, in Italy and in the world?
Surely the variety of olives: Grignano and Favarol are grown only in the eastern part of the province of Verona and by law,  a Veneto Valpolicella DOP oil must be made from at least 50% of those two olives. My choice has been to use exclusively those olives, 50% Grignano and 50% Favarol (in some years 60% Grignano and 40% Favarol). Being a variety that has such a small area of production makes the Veneto Valpolicella DOP unique and not easily replicated in other regions of Italy.

9. If you controlled the Olive Oil world, what measures would you put in place to improve it?
I would clarify and change the system of labelling, calling the product that is derived directly from the pressing of olives, “Olive Oil”, and all the rest something different without any reference to the word “olive”. The fact that today many consumers do not know the difference between an “extra virgin” oil and a simple “olive oil”  means that the information that consumers derive from labels is not sufficient for them to make informed buying choices. 

10. Who or what inspires you and your work? I have always admired the agricultural regions like Tuscany and Umbria that continue to hold in high regard the products from their land. Since I was a boy, I have wanted to transform our family business beyond just the production of raw materials to also include the transformation and sale of the end product. But all in a pleasing rustic environment. What drives me the most is not just to create a product but to create and build a company that makes exceptional products.

11. When you are not working in the olive mill, what are you doing? If I am at home, I am cooking for my wife Sabrina, she is my “right hand” in the mill. Otherwise, I am playing football in an amateur league or watching football, my favourite team being Hellas Verona.

12. If you weren’t an olive miller, what would you be?  Immediatly after graduating I started in the family business and dedicated myself to working in the groves during the winter months. I didn’t have time to choose, it was a natural step for me. I didn’t choose this work, it chose me.

13. What is something you can’t say no to? Dessert after dinner.

14. The book on your bedside table:  I enjoy books that speak about real life, mostly biographies. 

15. Your favourite song in your iPod: No iPod – I am a radio man…

16. Your favourite cult classic film:  The Warriors (1979)

17. Your most memorable vacation:  In the summer of 2008 on Isola d’Elba with a group of old friends.

18. Where have you never been, but would love to go?   To relax – some lost island, to learn – somewhere discovering an ancient civilization, for pleasure – following the wine “route” through Italy.

19. Accomplishment that you are most proud of:  Having transformed a small farm into a dynamic and lively business that fully respects and honours the region.

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