Olive oil is an expression of terroir
It's an ancient food, profound in its history and cultural impact. But olive oil is also an expression of terroir, just like grapes, so five very distinct bottles from Tasca d'Almerita reflect their own unique regions of Sicily. The Mediterranean island is remarkably diverse, from the frequently dry and dusty interior around Regaleali to the sea-swept Aeolian Islands and stunning property of Capofaro.
Regaleali's own 'yellow gold' comes from olive trees more than a hundred years old, back from the days when Regaleali - from the Arabic for 'House of Ali' - was an elegant country home as well as working farm. The olives are harvested manually and cold processed, a fabulous blend of varietals: mainly Biancolilla and Nocellara but also Cerasuola and Ogliarola Messinese and the wonderfully-named Pidicuddara, Carolea, Rizza and Giarraffa.
Beautifully aromatic, the virgin olive oil is a heady mix of green and gold to look at, while as soon as it is poured, there are undoubted notes of rosemary and even artichoke. Whether you choose focaccia - or maybe just your finger - to taste it, there's a fabulous peppery, vaguely spicy finish. Youthful and expressive, it represents Regaleali's remarkable microclimate and very special sense of place.
The contrast with the Aeolian Islands, some six hours away by car and ferry, is striking. Magical Capofaro - or 'Lighthouse' - is an estate that hugs Malvasia-covered cliffs overlooking the magnificent Stromboli volcano on the horizon.
There are few culinary experiences or locations to compare with sitting al fresco, a glass of superb Didyme in hand, as the sun slowly sets over the Tyrrhenian Sea. When Stromboli erupts - as it did on our visit - the sky is illuminated with jaw-dropping flame and fury.
At dinner, Chef Ludovico de Vivo crafts bread named by Gambero Rosso as the best in all of Italy. When gently dipped in Capofaro's own olive oil, vibrant and slightly salty, maybe reflecting the spray of the sea, you have the ultimate expression of terroir - and a reminder why Italy is unsurpassed when it comes to produce, people and passion.