The Millers Series: Gian Michele Porro from Tenuta Rasciatano
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 fourth 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 Gian Michele Porro who runs the beautiful Tenuta Rasciatano in Puglia with its 200 year old olive trees.
1. Name, first and last: Gian Michele Porro
2. Where were you born? Rome on March 1st, 1971.
3. How has the place where you were born influenced who and how you are? I was born in a city of almost 3million people and now I live in the countryside. For sure the competition that you breathe in a big city like Rome, I carried with me here. But also the link to one’s ancestors, something that you feel strongly in Rome, is now what connects me to the land that has always been cultivated
by my family.
4. What did you study? I received my degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1996.
5. Were your studies connected at all to your future work? Not directly, but I have applied my degree to the automation of our farm and in the modern machinary used in the transformation of olives to oil.
6. How old were you when you knew that making EVOO was your mission? I moved to Puglia when I was 26 years old and I took over our family farm. From the beginning I felt the need of transforming the production on the farm and the distribution of our oil.
7. What is your favourite dish prepared with your EVOO? Orecchiette pugliesi con le cime di Rapa, a typical pasta dish from Puglia.
8. What makes your EVOO different from others produced in your region, in Italy and in the world?
The oil that I produce comes from a single type of olive: Coratina. This cultivar is grown widely only in the northern part of Puglia. It has characteristics that no other olives have: incredibly low acidity (less than 0.2%) and an extremely high level of polyphenols, the antioxidants in evoo (averages over 400). They are values that no other type of oil can guarantee with certainty year after year.
9. If you controlled the Olive Oil world, what measures would you put in place to improve it?
I would reduce the maximum level of acidity for extra virgin olive oil from 0.8% to 0.2% and I would insist on having the harvest year on product labels.
10. Who or what inspires you and your work? My work is a life choice that has allowed me to work and live in the countryside throughout the entire year. My inspiration comes from the knowledge that in this way I am continuing the work that my ancestors started more than 200 years ago when they began planting the olive trees at Rasciatano.
11. When you are not working in the olive mill, what are you doing? I’m playing golf or at the beautiful seaside that is just below our olive groves.
12. If you weren’t an olive miller, what would you be? Anything that would have allowed me to spend the majority of my day outdoors. I am not able to stay closed inside an office all day.
13. What is something you can’t say no to? Oil that is just fresh from the press. It is a unique flavour that lasts just a few hours!
14. The book on your bedside table: Nobody by Charlotte Link.
15. Your favourite song in your iPod: Life on Mars, David Bowie.
16. Your favourite cult classic film: The Godfather
17. Your most memorable vacation: Boating through the Eolie islands in Sicily.
18. Where have you never been, but would love to go? I love North America and I go there as often as possible, but I have yet to see Kelowna and the beautiful interior of BC.
19. Accomplishment that you are most proud of: I am most proud of the fact that with my work I have been able to buy back the olive trees that my family had sold off many years ago and with those trees we now make a wonderful oil.