The oil mill Frantoio Santa Téa is situated at Reggello, in the hills of Florence, at an altitude of 400 metres, in the Arno Valley, an ideal land for olives’ cultivation. Giorgio Gonnelli, managing director of the company ‘Gonnelli 1585’, who represents the owners’ thirteenth generation, receives us at the oil mill, the oldest one among the oil mills still active in Italy. Here olive oil has been produced for more than five hundred years from 1426, the year of its foundation. The mill was acquired in 1585 by Gonnelli brothers, who bought the farm of Santa Téa by the Carmelite friars of the Church ‘Chiesa del Carmine’ in Florence.
The Gonnelli family has been able to combine the traditional cultivation of olive trees with the most modern methods of oil production, innovating in a decisive way a sector which just in the last five years is receiving the national and international attention it deserves.
The 'mother of all mills'
In 1962 the grandfather Giorgio Gonnelli (in collaboration with Alfa Laval) installed in the oil mill the first centrifugal plant in the world, a sort of 'mother of all mills', still used by all the producers. Today this plant is one of the most advanced as for both qualitative yield and technological aspects. It is equipped with three production lines, with a system which is updated every year. Every hour 10 tons of olives are processed and just eighteen hours elapse between collection and pressing, with cold extraction below 27°C. In 1980 Giorgio’s father, Piero Gonnelli, had an intuition which would have changed the market of extra-virgin olive oil. There is not just one oil: on the contrary, there are many types of oil, with different flavours, depending on the variety and the time of olives’ ripening. Different brands are created according on different flavours, the oil is 'fruity' in its tones, 'medium', 'delicate', and then there are the selections which come from the various cultivars: Frantoio, Leccino, Moraiolo, Pendolino.
Giorgio Gonnelli explains: «At the end of the 80s, my father was in Milan for business reasons, when, during a dinner in a restaurant, a bottle of our oil was brought on the table. He immediately noticed that something was wrong: a filling up which had altered the flavour of our oil. My father, after the anger felt at the moment, began to study a solution in order to overcome this problem. He found it with the use of a special cap, which at that time was used for bitters’ bottles. From that moment on, in 1990 Santa Téa was the first oil mill to adopt for all its bottles a non-refillable dispenser cap, in favour of a greater security for customers and also in order to foster a controlled consumption. This measure may became mandatory with the ‘Legge Mongiello’. In 2002, the company was among the first ones to use throughout the supply chain, from production to storage, the system under nitrogen, in the absence of oxygen, which can delay the organoleptic decline of the oil and preserve, even after 8-9 months, its maximum freshness. In 2000 Gonnelli family has extended its production even in ‘Chianti Classico’, thanks to the realization of the oil mill ‘Frantoio di Vertine’, in the medieval village above Gaiole in Chianti, dedicate to the exclusive production of the DOP Chianti Classico, of which every year about 40,000 litres are produced.
The annual production is of 500,000 litres. The vintage of 2013 has been particularly good, with a total of 428.426 bottles. In 2007, Gonnelli 1585 obtained the UNI EN ISO 22005: 07 certification, thus being the first one in Europe to be certified as for the traceability of each bottle.
Fourteen labels are produced by the ‘Frantoio Santa Téa’:
I Classici, with ‘Il Tradizionale’, ‘Rocca di Cervaia’, ‘La Pieve’, and ‘Fresco di Frantoio’, this latter one bottled without filtration. It is an oil characterized by a fruity scent and a tasty flavour of olive pulp.
I Monocultivar: ‘Frantoio’, also in the ‘handbag’ version, ‘Leccino’ and ‘Moraiolo’, a typical cultivar coming from Tuscany which can give a fruity oil, rich in polyphenols.
Le Selezioni: ‘Olive Verdi’, an extra virgin olive oil born from the selection of green olives picked by hand and cold pressed, with a strong character, a scent of fresh olives, and light notes of artichoke and wild herbs, slightly spicy, characterized by a round and balanced taste. Other selections follow: ‘Olive Nere’, ‘Biologico’, up to the ‘Grand Cru’ ones, with ‘DOP Chianti Classico’, ‘IGP Toscano’, ‘Laudemio’, and ‘Profumo d’Oliva’.