Bramasole's award-winning extra virgin arrives straight from the Italian mill.
By James Gaddy
Bramasole’s olives are grown in Cortona, near the border of Umbria and Tuscany, where they’re hand-picked each October at Villa Bramasole. In a romantic twist, the estate is owned and operated by American writer Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun. The olives are sent to a mill about 15 minutes away, where they’re pressed in a matter of hours. Robust and peppery, the oil has a spicy character that kicks in the back of the throat and the color of melted emeralds that oleologists (the official title of olive oil testers) love. Bramasole has won gold, silver, or best in class at the international olive oil awards the last four years.
Villa Bramasole is a small operation, and its product is unusual because it’s not sold through retail outlets. It’s ordered online by the case; the 12 half-liter bottles go for $300 total. Bramasole is more expensive than many high-end oils. O, the Californian extra virgin olive oil, is $14 per bottle and much loved by chefs and food television personalities—Oprah Winfrey, Alice Waters, and Chris Cosentino are all fans. If you have a favorite Italian chef, chances are he already has an olive oil in production. Massimo Bottura’s Villa Manodori is about $30 for a half-liter; Mario Batali charges $16.80 for his eponymous extra virgin production. In between, many other options are available at your local specialty-food shop.
The oil’s fruity, floral flavor has what Michelin-starred chef Suvir Saran calls the “perfect amount of picante” for a plate of bucatini or cacio e pepe, or a simple salade niçoise. But it’s also balanced enough for cooking—a rare combination. Filtered, it can last as long as two years if properly stored, but Mayes encourages home cooks to use a bottle per month, which is on the lower end of the average Italian’s yearly olive oil consumption. Because only about 1,000 cases are produced each year, it’s best to order now before supplies run out; after that, you’ll have to preorder from the coming fall harvest.