Chance—an element that plays a larger part in our lives than we might imagine. That’s how we found ourselves in a farmhouse in Tuscany outside Cortona in 1985, and how we found ourselves buying Villa Bramasole five years later, which included hundreds of olive trees on the property.
And then, in the mid 1990s, Nico and and our daughter Ashley met while in graduate school together and found an amazing Cortona connection. When she mentioned to him that Frances and I had a house in Cortona, he told her that his father was born and raised in Cortona, that he too had been to Cortona many times. Nico soon married Ashley's good friend Ann. When Nico found out that we had bought an additional olive grove near Bramasole when our grandson was born and had more olive oil than we could give to our extended family, he proposed that we sell what we can’t use. So it started—selling directly to friends and then friends of friends and then friends of friends of friends. We’ve kept it simple—buy a case and have it shipped via UPS from Tuscany to your door. That’s it. Call it farm to table or olive grove to front door.
And if you pour our oil in your pan, please think of us poised in the trees in the wind, picking jillions of these little drupes then standing in the cold mulino watching the lovely green oil pouring into our demijohns.
about the oil
The olive tree springs from the taproot of Mediterranean living. Over time, I’ve heard of olive oil being used for everything from stretch marks to kidney stones to coughs. After caring for a grove, it’s impossible not to think of olive oil as a holy substance. The biblical references to anointing the body with oil had to have meant olive oil. Who first squeezed those bitter drupes and discovered the oil? She’s our missing goddess or saint! She found the soul of the Mediterranean diet.
How to describe the distinct, polyphonic, greeny, assertive, fresh, piquant, sublime taste of just-pressed extra-virgin olive oil? Every year at harvest, I marvel at the punch it delivers to everything I cook. At this stage, just-pressed oil is bursting with health-improving properties, as well as that indescribable taste. Your cooking skills quadruple when you cook with the freshest oil available. Tuscans use great olive oil every day. When I first arrived in Tuscany, I was surprised to see Don Ferruccio, a local priest, eating an orange that he doused in olive oil and salt. That was a defining moment for me; I realized in one bite what I’d missed.
Our oil is, of course, extra-virgin which means that the acid content is less than 0.8%. Never buy any oil that is not extra virgin unless you need to oil hinges. The designation “light” or—ugh—“lite” means absolutely nothing, and cold-pressed means less than it used to. The machinery began to change over a decade ago and all high-quality olive oil such as ours is pressed with state-of-the-art equipment without the use of heat.
Many inexpensive “extra-virgin” oils sold in American stores are blends of oils that did not sell in their first year. If an extra-virgin olive oil from Italy is cheap, I’m 99% sure that something is amiss. When you know that a tree in Tuscany produces one liter, you understand that first-quality oil has to be expensive. So, look with care at the olive oils in grocery stores as well as in the fine cookware shops. Many verge on expiring and the labels are rife with misleading information! All you can read on the subject will arm you against buying a dreary product—an unholy mix or stale olive oil, or a lower-quality older oil, even if they are “extra-virgin.” For the price of a dinner out, you can buy enough fine oil to last for months, oil that pushes your cooking from excellent to sublime!
Bramasole Olive Oil will remove all these caveat emptors, Here's the wonderful, enhancing oil you’ll want for your house. Use it with confidence. Normal cooking heat does not destroy the qualities of good oil. Tuscans use it for frying, though you never read that in American cookbooks. Frequently they use olive oil instead of butter in baking. Fresh Tuscan oil has a kick, a tingly sensation, and a lively personality. With olive oil, you’re not after the neutrality of other vegetable oils (or the chemical additives of refining processes), you want that clean life and spice and vibrancy that adds so much depth to your food. If you travel to Italy in the fall, visit a molino and taste the just-pressed oil—a revelation.Next best, order our expedited shipment that reaches you asap after the harvest. From massaging the newborn’s umbilical cord to anointing the body for the shroud, olive oil always has been the essential ingredient of Italian life.
ABOUT THE PEOPLE
Frances has always adored houses, and when she saw Bramasole, a neglected, 250-year old Tuscan farmhouse nestled in five overgrown acres, it was love at first sight. Out of that instant infatuation have come three memoirs. Under the Tuscan Sun, remained on The New York Times bestseller list for two and a half years. A film version of Under the Tuscan Sun, starring Diane Lane, was released in fall of 2003. The other international best sellers are: Bella Tuscany, and Every Day in Tuscany, the last in her Tuscan trilogy. With Edward Mayes, she has published two photo-texts, In Tuscany, with photographer Bob Krist, and Bringing Tuscany Home: Sensuous Style from the Heart of Italy, with photographer Steven Rothfeld.
All five highly personal books are about taking chances, living in Italy, loving and renovating an old Italian villa, harvesting olives, the pleasures of food, wine, gardens, and the “voluptuousness of Italian life.” Their The Tuscan Sun Cookbook is a collection of favorite Tuscan recipes, also with photographs by Steven Rothfeld. The books are translated into more than fifty-five languages.
Frances is also the author of the travel memoir, A Year in the World: Journeys of A Passionate Traveller, which immediately debuted as a New York Times bestseller in 2006. Working again with Steven Rothfeld, she published Shrines: Images of Italian Worship. Her first novel, Swan, a family saga and mystery, returns Mayes to her childhood home of Georgia, as does Under Magnolia: A Southern Memoir. See You in the Piazza and Always Italy are her most recent books, along with the novel, Women in Sunlight.
In addition to co-authoring the above mentioned books, Ed's poetry publications include Works and Days, Speed of Life, First Language, Magnetism, Bodysong, and To Remain, several of which have been awarded literary prizes. He has harvested olives for over thirty seasons.
Nico has long ties to Cortona, where his father was raised and he still has many relatives. Nico lives with his wife Ann, and twins, Mara and Luca, near Santa Cruz, California on two acres with sixty olive trees. He has a PhD in psychology and works as a partner at the marketing research consultancy elucidate.
Will has been to Bramasole every year of his life. Last fall, he began his studies at New York University Shanghai. Since 2016, he has been active at Bramasole Olive Oil in Advertising, Photography, and Analytics.