March / mars 2016
An olive pruning workshop in Cotignac
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Our lesson in pruning olive trees took place at the home of Charles and Juliet Nicholson. Their estate has about 500 hundred olive trees, most of which were overgrown and hidden in the dense maquis when they took over the farm. Many suffered first from frost in1956 and then from a devastating fire in 1979. After the frost, the trees, which had mainly been used to produce oil for the soap industry of Marseille, were cut down and sold for their wood. Thus while some of their trees were newly planted after the fire, others are those which have re-grown from the old boles.
Nicolas Valabregue, who looks after Charles and Juliet’s trees, tutored and guided us for our morning pruning session and took us on a tour to see all the different types of olive trees on the estate.
After a picnic lunch we were introduced to the art of olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting by Charles and Sika Carey who have been running their importing company, The Oil Merchant, for over 20 years. They gave us the opportunity to compare the tastes of olive oils from many different countries.
Read Nicolas’s advice on the care and pruning of olive trees.
Text and photographs: Nicola D’Annunzio