In 1976 the wine industry changed forever when a vintage from California was judged superior to its European counterparts. The same thing might be about to happen to olive oil.
On a Sunday morning in Rome, a couple dozen locals gather in an orchard of some 50 olive trees planted above ancient catacombs. The owner has offered lunch in exchange for help stripping the olives so he can get the harvest to a nearby press as quickly as possible. They begin by spreading a circular net around the trunk of a 12-foot-tall tree. Children scamper to the treetop to yank clumps of olives with their fists. Adults below pull fruit off the lower limbs with small rakes, taking care not to stomp on the piles accumulating at their feet. After 15 minutes, the hail of olives tapers off. The net is lifted and the fruit dumped into a small plastic crate—enough for perhaps a liter of oil. The gaggle moves on to the next tree. By the time the sky gets that glow of an Italian day’s end, the stronger of the pickers are loading the crates onto a trailer hitched to a Range Rover bound for a frantoio, or mill, where the olives are to be pressed into golden-green oil.
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Source: Bloomberg Businessweek. Written by Peter Robinson and Vernon Silver. Jan. 25, 2016