Making Olive Oil at Terra Santa
Posted by Jason Moulton
The adventures in Chile continue.
The capital of Chile, Santiago, was where I chose to base myself in terms of accomodation. Lying just North of Santiago, the Curacaví Valley was in close proximity, with buses leaving there every 8 minutes.
Christián Benavente and Sergio Castello, both of Pieralisi agreed to pick me up from the town of Curacaví. While Christián is the local Chilean contact for Pieralisi, Sergio Castello is the head of all Latin American operations in regards to Pieralisi.
Sergio travels to Uruguay, Peru, Chile, and Argentina to ensure all Pieralisi equipment is working properly. Sergio Castello and Marcelo Cena have both made a point in coming to California as well to help all Pieralisi olive oil mills. I am very grateful to have such excellent support from all these Pieralisi representatives.
After picking me up from the town of Curacaví, Christián drove us to Terra Santa. We arrived in the middle of processing Frantoio and Arbequina. Terra Santa has the luxury of processing immediately after being picked, just as we do at LMR. The ability to process immediately after picking leads to a greater quality of aromatics, less oxidation, lower levels of acidity, and an increase in polyphenols (antioxidants).
In total, Terra Santa has 386 acres planted to Arbequina, Picual, Frantoio, Leccino, Coratina, Arbosana, and Korieniki. The 86 acres on site have a median age of 6 years, while the 300 acres off-site are just one-year-olds. It goes to show how young and up-and-coming this company truly is here.
Production-wise, Terra Santa has the ability to crush 7,715 lbs per hour or 66,135 lbs per day. Total tank capacity is up to 145,310 gallons. Although Terra Santa is massive in its levels of production and property, it still maintains a high level of quality and respect for the olives.
The laboratory has a machine that generates the approximate amounts of acidity and breaks them down into the different families of acidity. There was also a miniature olive crusher to test field samples. The purpose of testing field samples is to know exactly what levels of acidity you could obtain prior to harvesting whole blocks.
Their tanks were absolutely pristine and beautiful, making me think it was more of a winery than an olive mill. As with most upper-echelon mills, this also had epoxy floors to maintain cleanliness efficiently. Sebastian, the mill operator was overly generous with his time in showing me how all of his equipment worked and how they cleaned up after a day of processing.
After getting a right and proper tour of the facility, I hiked up about a mile into the olive orchards. The terrain was tough, but pleasing to the eyes. These 6-year-old trees were doing very well for their age and seemed healthier than ever. The view of the rolling hills was smile-provoking to say the least.
Coming to Terra Santa was an excellent choice. As the production level increases here, the more important it will be to analyze every lot coming into the mill. As a quality control issue, Terra Santa is taking the right step in testing each and every lot before, during, and after processing.
I wish them luck on their new venture!
Posted by Jason Moulton