For more than 20 years, the Wassmann family has been cultivating olives on the rolling hills around Panticale in central Italy.
Rastrello is the small hand rake used when harvesting olives and it is a central part of the local culture, which I wanted to value and communicate.
“We are so happy; we’re in heaven, ”Elida Wassmann, co-owner of Rastrello, told Olive Oil Times. “It is a great honor and such a beautiful thing. When you win a prize like this, you tell yourself: ‘Wow, we really did a great job. ”
The family’s second prize in as many entries for the world’s most prestigious olive oil quality competition validated the long process that began when Wassmann and her husband arrived in Panticale some 25 years ago.
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“When we first arrived and saw the house immersed in the olive trees, we fell in love with this place, ”she said.
Born in Portugal, Wassmann is an American who has lived all over the world. However, after decades of traveling, she finally settled in the small town of Umbria.
“My parents, an airline pilot and a flight attendant, traveled a lot, ”she said, describing the stages that brought her to the beautiful village. “In 1970, when I visited them in Nicaragua, I met my husband, Günter, who is German.
“We lived there until the start of the revolution when we went to Arizona, ”she added. “We had both been to Italy before and loved it so much. In 1996 we discovered this place and in 2000 we moved for good.
The couple passed on their cosmopolitan attitude and affection for the land to their children, especially Lydia, who is in charge of the farm’s international sales, and Christiane, who has created a beautiful receptive structure.
“At the beginning, there were only 75 olive trees, which gradually grew to more than a thousand, spread over six hectares, ”said Wassmann. “We have recovered olive groves that have been abandoned for several years and so overgrown; they had become like woods. By restoring them, we have respected the balance of the plants and the landscape.
Wassmann added that part of the orchard had been replanted, keeping the original model, placing the trees just over six meters apart.
“Much of the grove is made up of splendid century-old plants, most of which are Dolce Agogia, and about a third is made up of ancient olive trees that we are trying to identify, ”she said.
Frantoio, Moraiolo, Leccino, Pendolino and Rosciolo complete the composition of the orchard, nestled in the hills south of Panicale. The names of these varieties also adorn Rastrello’s boutique hotel rooms, located in the 500-year-old Palazzo Grossi in the village.
“I am a olive oil sommelier and I wanted to integrate my knowledge of olive oil into our hotel concept, ”said Christiane Wassmann. “After the renovation of the spaces, carried out with respect for the history of the original structure, we chose the same name for our extra virgin olive oil. Rastrello is the small hand rake used when harvesting olives and it’s a central part of the local culture, which I wanted to showcase and communicate.
Its aim is to convey the beauty and quality products of this part of Umbria, the territory of Lake Trasimeno, to all who come to visit.
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“We provide our customers with our food and drink from farm to table, ”she said. “They can taste specialties like our martini, fat washed with extra virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil gelato, all of which highlight the taste and aromas of our flagship product. , which comes from the land overlooking the lake.
Rastrello guests have the option of participating in tastings, olive oil-focused cooking classes, and field experiences including olive harvesting.
“We invite them to experience our beautiful olive grove, where they can find olive trees of the same age as our structure, ”said Wassmann. “There is a strong link between our work and the love for these plants. They contribute to the beauty of this territory that we maintain and also enhance through respectful and sustainable actions.
Sustainability is a fundamental principle for the family business, which has implemented systems for the reuse and saving of resources, starting with the application of solar and photovoltaic panels to produce energy. Their cultivation method also involves low impact practices, including the use of natural fertilizers.
“Our work is as natural as possible, ”said Elida Wassmann. “I believe we are what we eat. So protecting the environment, preserving biodiversity and caring for the land have become a mission for us.
Every two or three years, the family acquires a small plot and plans to restore the abandoned land while expanding their production of olive oil.
“There is always so much to do, ”said Wassmann. “Yet my husband and I have such a passion for our land that even the hardest work is not a burden, and we spend most of our time between the olive grove and the vegetable patch.
During the pruning and harvesting season, they are supported by a group of collaborators. The meticulous and constant work of a year culminates in a harvest at the right time. The fruits are crushed in a local latest generation mill which allows them to obtain an excellent final product.
“We started producing olive oil for our own consumption and ended up becoming so passionate that we still didn’t stop to build the beautiful things around this wonderful product, the most recent of which is our hotel. Said Wassmann.
“Initially, we produced oil just for fun. We invited friends for the harvest and had many lunches in the olive grove, ”she added. “This aspect of fun has remained, but it has been enriched by a commitment that allows us to better communicate our message of sustainability, respect and, ultimately, beauty.
“We respect the land, which also means respecting people, ”concluded Wassmann. “We try to do quality work, which is more than work. I can say it is all about love and we are trying to pass that on to our five grandchildren. We want to educate them to work with love and cultivate beauty. “