August 4, 2021

Olive oil made in France is resisting

By Pierre Hemme

Posted on July 18, 2021 at 11:57 p.m., updated yesterday at 12:15 p.m.

We would have preferred to describe the song of the cicadas, the sun beating hard under the blue sheet of the sky… But on this cold spring morning, we especially retain the freezing breath of the mistral, which numbs the face. The panorama, it remains grandiose. Behind a massive and pretty farmhouse, the Domaine de Leos deploys rows of silver olive trees with gnarled trunks, 2,500 trees planted on a small sloping plateau. And all around, like guards watching from afar over the olive grove, the tall statures of the Vaucluse and Ventoux mountains, the Luberon massif and the Alpilles.

It is here, on this land a few kilometers from L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (Vaucluse), as well as in a handful of other areas, that the resistance of French olive oil is being organized.

Admittedly, this exploitation of about forty hectares is tiny compared to the plots that one finds in the south of Spain. In Andalusia, olive groves stretch as far as the eye can see, forming gray-blue seas over tens of thousands of hectares. They ensure the Spanish colossus its place as world champion of olive oil in volume, with 1.3 million tonnes produced each year (according to the specialist guide Flos Olei). “But here, it is not the quantity that counts, we have also decided not to cover more than forty hectares: we want to draw oil towards excellence, there is only one way we can exist ”, assumes Joël Gayet.

Joël Gayet, manager of Domaine Leos, in the olive grove.

His fine white hair battered by the mistral, the development manager of Domaine Leos strides through the stony terrain. He has been dedicated to this premium olive oil production project for seven years. And behind the language elements of this marketing specialist, we can sense a genuine passion for the job just in the somewhat fatherly way he ensures the good health of the youngest feet of Aglandau. This queen variety of Provençal PDOs produces powerful and very slightly peppery oils. “You have to imagine that here, ten years ago, there was bumpy ground where a few bikers trained, and only 200 wild olive trees, he recounts. We had to make cuttings and coppices to revive, little by little, a real olive grove. “

Patrick Bruel, an oil in Provence

This “us” includes a team of experts, and above all a famous investor, who became the owner of the estate in 2007: Patrick Bruel. We discover his giant portrait, poster style, near the poster of an old James Bond, entering a living room in the farmhouse. A few microphones and a black piano on which he composes sit alongside dozens of carefully arranged bottles. “Oenology is one of Patrick’s great passions, specifies Joël Gayet. The estate should also produce rosé this year. “

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