Friday, January 30, 2009

Casale Sonnino Olive Oil

If you read this blog, you care about food and the basic ingredients you use in your cooking, including extra virgin Italian olive oil.

But are you really using extra virgin Italian olive oil? Or are you the unsuspecting owner of a bottle of hazelnut oil from Turkey, or sunflower oil from Argentina?

It's not so easy to know, even if you buy olive oil that you think is a well-known, well-respected, international brand. A lot has been written about fraud in the industry, including a well documented piece written a while ago in the New Yorker Magazine entitled "Slippery Business," the trade in adulterated olive oil.

Aside from the question of whether it's really olive oil, there's little way of knowing (assuming it is olive oil), how the olives and trees were grown and maintained, whether they were overly sprayed with pesticide days before picking, whether they were sitting around too long before milling, subject to bruising, whether all the olives came from Italy or whether the oil in the bottle really was the first cold pressing.

Casale Sonnino, vineyards and olive trees

That's something I don't give a second thought to when I buy olive oil from Casale Sonnino, a villa and vineyard in the hills outside Rome owned by my friend Clo Sonnino Treves.

The olives from the 700 trees on her property are hand picked by a small group of local women in the traditional manner. Nets are strung below the olive trees to capture any falling fruit before they hit the ground to prevent bruising. The olives are transported within days to a local mill, where Clo's son George supervises the pressing from start to finish. I can always be sure that their extra virgin olive oil is the first cold pressing from estate grown olives. Like grapes, olives for oil come in many varieties. Casale Sonnino olive oil uses Broccanica, Rosciola, Venina and the Tuscan Leccino.

Clo's daughter Claire says that last November's harvest produced a bumper crop and the most delicious batch in recent memory.

Casale Sonnino

I'm planning to put my order in soon since the shipment arrives from Italy in February. You should too if you want to try a truly artisanal, truly exquisite, unadulterated extra virgin olive oil. Contact Claire to find out about prices and/or place your order. She can be reached by email at claire@casalesonnino or at 516-767-7188.

She can also tell you about the Casale itself, an 18th century ancestral home that is rented out by the week to vacationing family groups, artists and travelers all year long. Their website is


  1. Linda, I should give this one a try.
    I am ADDICTED to Frantoia from Sicily, however, lately, the price has been annoying.....$25. and I go thru a lg bottle every 2 weeks!
    I have been using Carli from Liguria region and loving it. I could drink it!

  2. I think I have a fairly good nose when it comes to smelling the aroma of olive oil.. but you never know! Very good post. I have asked one of our local Italian deli's if they would have an olive oil tasting. They have yet to comply! :) The last one I went to was at the opening of a Bristol Farms. I loved it and appreciated that I might never be able to try some of the more expensive bottles of $100.00 and up. They get a little pricy. I'll have to look for your referral.

  3. Your post was a mini education on olive oil for me! It had not even occurred to me that the oil could be adultrated and not what they claim it to be. Thankyou for pointing this out and for article link :)