How to Drink Oil & Impress Friends

 November 18, 2012

It’s olive oil season in Sicily!

A few years ago Giuseppe Rosso, an award-winning producer, taught me the proper way to sample oil.

Giuseppe Rosso, Villa Zottopera, copyright Jann Huizenga

Giuseppe Rosso stands in his ancient olive grove in Chiaramonte Gulfi

We were at Villa Zottopera, his family’s 18th-century masseria in southern Sicily.

Villa Zottopera in Chiaramonte Gulfi, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

The entrance to Villa Zottopera

Villa Zottopera, Chiaramonte Gulfi, Sicily, copyright Jann Huizenga

Villa Zottopera is an agriturismo–B&B!!!

The old estate in Chiaramonte Gulfi has thousands of twisted trees. He handed me a tiny cupful of green liquid flecked with gold.

“Hold it tightly in your hands, and do like this.”

Rosso, a non-stop talker with a twinkle in his eye, rubbed the bottom of the glass back and forth against the palm of his hand, as if preparing a magic potion. “The oil must be at body temperature. Now sniff it deeply, toss it behind your bottom lip, and watch me.”

He drained his glass, then made like a human vacuum cleaner, sucking the oil back through his bottom teeth with a big whoosh. I followed suit.

“Now wait.” He went silent for a moment to let me concentrate.

The oil had a bracing effect, tingling my tongue before trickling down the throat in a fruity-pungent sizzle.

I half-coughed.

“What do you taste?” Rosso quizzed. “Tell me what you taste.”

“Pepper.  Sunshine. Grass. . . . Nature!”

My answer was much too generic for him. Did I taste the profumo of almonds, the piccante of tomato leaves??

Uh, no. But I knew delizioso when I tasted it.

Ogghiu comuni sana ogni duluri, Sicilians say. Plain oil heals every pain.

*****

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