Allow Us To Present Our New Sileo Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sileo 1

Over the last fifteen years or so, there has been quite a renaissance of quality virgin olive oils here in Mallorca. It is really quite remarkable. In the Nineties, Mallorcan olive oils were few and far between. Now, however, we are spoilt for choice of Mallorcan virgin olive oil from Sóller, Caimari, Manacor and Santanyí, to name but a few of the main olive growing regions. The Consell Regulador de la Denominació d’Origen Oli de Mallorca applies strict measures of quality control and today endorses a sizeable number of olive oils with a Denominació d’Origen certificate.

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Currently, there are 69 Virgin Olive Oils labelled with the ‘d’O‘ seal, the Oli de Mallorca Denomination of Origin. This certificate was created in 2002 in accordance with European Union regulations, confirming that the thus marked and sealed oil is an agricultural product originating from a clearly defined location whose quality and characteristics are principally due to the geographical environment in which it is produced by natural factors and human activity.

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Of the 69 Mallorcan Virgin Olive Oils, only seven are grown and produced under 100 % organic conditions as controlled and certified by the CBPAE (Consell Balear de la Producció Agrària Ecològica), without the use of any pesticides, insecticides, chemical substances or inorganic fertilisers. Sileo oli d’oliva verge extra from Son Alegre is one of these few Mallorcan quality olive oils and it is 100 % organic. Try some if you can. You will like it.

Sileo 6

ArbequinaEmpeltre, Picual and Hojiblanca are the principal olive varieties on this island. Our olives are of the Arbequina variety. We harvest them by hand in late October when the olives on the tree are three different colours, green, purple and black. The three colours signify that not all of the olives are fully ripened – if they were, they would all be black. We have decided to let some olives not quite ripen. That way we can ensure a superior quality of olive oil combined with a better taste. If we were to wait any longer, chances would be that the olive fruit would be attacked by the Olive fruit fly (Bactrocera oleae), a serious pest in the cultivation of olives, and that would of course alter the taste of our oil dramatically, unless we were to spray against the little insect. We will never spray, and hardly ever with with copper, which we are allowed as an organic producer. We are committed to Nature and to the wondrous ecosystem on our land that we have allowed to develop over the last ten or fifteen years. We have not plowed our olive orchard once in the last twelve years; in fact we do not even enter our orchard all year long other than at harvest time, simply to leave the trees, their natural environment and our biological ecosystem as well as the prevailing biodiversity completely undisturbed.

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Every year, our olives are the first ones to be pressed at our Tafona (oil mill) in Sóller, the Cooperativa Agrícola de Sant Bartomeu de Sóller. The oil mill is famed for their gentle handling of olives and renowned for their output of oil of the best quality. We are proud to collaborate with them year after year and we are grateful for the liquid gold that they gently press hydraulically from our olives, store for us during the two or three months of the settling process and the bottling of Sileo Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the end of their labour. Before bottling, our olive oil is tested by an ENAC-laboratory (Entidad Nacional de Acreditación). Our 2016-17 Sileo virgin olive oil extra was measured with a degree of acidity of 0.6%.

Sileo 4

Here is a photo showing the production of olive oil in Mallorca in times gone by, courtesy of Oli Monnàber Vell in Campanet (photographer unknown).  Muchas gracias.

All photos of today’s entry were taken, as always, by John Hinde, with the exception of the historic photo (above). Thank you, John.

Harvesting Olives at Son Alegre

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This week and last we started this year’s olive harvest at Son Alegre. Our one thousand plus olive trees of the Arbequina variety are doing very nicely, thank you very much. We planted the trees in 2004 and they have not been sprayed with pesticides, insecticides or herbicides for almost ten years now. Neither have we treated our land or our trees with growth enhancing substances such as fertilisers, be they of synthetic or organic nature. Although we would be allowed to use some organic pest repellents we abstain from such interference because we do not want to disturb the biodiversity of our olive grove that we have so carefully encouraged and maintained over the years. Using organic insect-repellent sprays such as Kaolin, a silicate clay mineral, would undoubtedly give us a higher yield when it comes to harvesting the olives but the downside would be a product of a lesser quality and this is not what Son Alegre stands for.

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We are very particular about collecting our olives just before they all reach complete maturity with the presence of three colour olives on each tree – green, purple and black. This way we are assured a maximum quality of our SILEO Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If we waited any longer we might well achieve a higher yield but would receive an oil of a lesser quality.

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For maximum freshness we always take our olives to the oil mill on the same day of the harvest. In fact, every year our olives are the first ones of the new season to be pressed at the oil mill. As always, we collaborate with the Cooperativa Agrícola de Sant Bartomeu in Sóller, famed for their gentle handling of the olives and renowned for their output of oil of the best quality.

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This year, Mallorcan olive production in general has suffered a downturn in quantities due to the climatic conditions on the island throughout the year and the absence of any significant rainfall. At Son Alegre, our harvest was down by about one third compared to the previous year. This week and last, we harvested a total of 2,896 kilogrammes of olives, giving us a total of 404 litres of olive oil with an acidity level of only 0.5%. This will give us no more than 800 bottles of Sileo Extra Virgin Olive Oil of 500 ml each. The oil is now in the oil press in a state of non-intervention and repose before the bottling process takes place, probably in January 2017.

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Bon profit.

We Proudly Present Our New SILEO Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sileo 2

We are proud of our Son Alegre organic wines.

But we produce more than just wine. We planted over 1,000 olive trees of the Olea europaea species in 2004, bearing olives of the Arbequina variety. Olives of the Arbequina variety are considered to be one of the best in the world for consistency and productivity, as well as for the quality of their oil.

Just like our vines, our olive trees are cultivated under 100 % organic conditions on our Son Alegre estate near Santanyí, where the coastal hinterland meets the rolling hills of the Mallorcan Serra de Llevant.

Sileo 3

On our land, we follow biodynamic principles and do not use any chemicals or non-organic fertilisers, resulting in a low yield but rewarding us with truly exceptional quality. Due to climatic conditions in 2015, only 3,800 kg of olives were harvested, resulting in a mere 420 l of olive oil (9.15 kg of olives are needed to produce one litre of our olive oil). For added stability we include a small amount of wild olives (Olea oleaster) at a ratio of no more than 1.5 %, giving our oil a subtle tang and a truly luscious fragrance.

Luckily, all our efforts resulted again in a premium product of exceptional character, albeit of a very limited quantity.

We always collect our olives just before they reach maturity. We handpick the fruit and, for maximum freshness, deliver the olives personally to the tafona (oil mill) in Sóller on the same day, just a few hours after they have been harvested. As we do not have our own oil mill, we collaborate with the Cooperativa Agrícola de Sant Bartomeu in Sóller, famed for their gentle handling of olives and renowned for their output of oil of the best quality.

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Our oil is extracted by a high-speed centrifugal process from the olives, without the use of any chemical agents. The result of this process is SILEO Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Oli d’oliva verge extra), an olive oil of a truly superior, organic quality.

Our olive tree plantation is scrutinised by the rigorous criteria of the Conselleria d’Agricultura, Medi Ambient i Territori as part of the Govern de les Illes Balears. The quality of our oil production is supervised by the Institut de Qualitat Agroalimentària de les Illes Balears (IQUA) and the Consell Regulador de la Denominació d’Origen Oli de Mallorca, allowing us to classify our oil as Oli de Mallorca Denominació d’Origen protegida.

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Before bottling, our olive oil is tested by an ENAC-laboratory (Entidad Nacional de Acreditación). Our 2015 SILEO Extra Virgin Olive Oi was measured with a degree of acidity of 0.6%.

SILEO Extra Virgin Olive Oil is known for its creamy and flawless yet delicately intense fragrance.

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This year, SILEO is sold in bottles of 500 ml. Only 500 bottles of our new Extra Virgin Olive Oil are coming to the shops this year; there aren’t any more. Sorry, but that’s the way how Nature works.

The Cycle of Life

Son Alegre 001

Autumn is usually the busiest time of the year for us here at Son Alegre.

You might think of us as a wine maker but that is only half the story. We do cultivate grapes for our organic Son Alegre wines and we finished harvesting the red grapes a week or ten days ago, that is the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Merlot, the Syrah and the Petit Verdot grapes. But we also grow olives for our SILEO Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the harvest of this year’s crop is about to take place within the next week or ten days.

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We also grow almonds. We grow carob fruits. And now is the time for their harvest. And we grow Xeixa, an ancient, indigenous Mallorcan wheat, as well as Blat Mort, which we use for animal feed. Our cereals, we harvest twice a year, so autumn is not the only busy time we have. Everything we grow is grown organically and under biodynamic conditions. We do not yet have the certificate of DEMETER (International Demeter Processing Standards) but we are aiming for it in the long run. All our crop is, however, controlled by CBPAE (Consell Balear Regulador de l’Agricltura Ecològica, the Balearic Council of Organic Agricultural Production).

Son Alegre 01

We also keep bees. We raise sheep. We rear pigs. And we breed goats. We don’t sell our livestock, so there is no control necessary by the official authorities. We don’t eat our animals either, just in case you wondered. We simply enjoy having critters on our land. We do get them to do their bit by helping us fertilize the soil and make them earn their upkeep by making them work our land. To be honest, they almost work harder than we do ourselves.

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We try to nurture wildlife on our land as much as possible and encourage insects, beetles, spiders, ants, snails, butterflies and birds, plus millions of unnamed tiny creatures and creepy-crawlies, some of them unrecognized, undiscovered and unnamed as yet, to come and settle on our land to help us with our agricultural efforts. They too, and that is all of them, have their busiest time of year just now, getting ready to prepare the land, the soil and the underworld for the winter season when everything and everybody gets ready for the new cycle of life that our land, and nature in general, is about to start soon. Year after year after year.

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Time to say thank you to all our little helpers. Or gràcies, as it were. Without our unpaid helpers, there would be no wine, no oil and no Son Alegre, nothing. That’s a fact.

And thank you to John Hinde for taking all the photos on our land, shown here and in many other of our blog entries. Cheers.

Presenting A Perfect Gift From Nature

olives Son Alegre Mallorca

At Son Alegre we produce more than just wine. We are proud to say that in 2004 we planted over 1,000 olive trees of the Olea europaea species, bearing olives of the Arbequina variety. The Arbequina olive is considered to be one of the best in the world for consistency and productivity, as well as for the quality of its oil.

olives Son Alegre Santanyí Mallorca_

Our olive trees are cultivated under 100 % organic conditions on our Son Alegre estate near Santanyí, where the coastal hinterland joins the rolling hills of the Mallorcan Serra de Llevant.

olive trees Son Alegre Santanyí Mallorca 4

Our careful and sustainable agrarian approach follows biodynamic principles without the use of any chemicals or non-organic fertilisers, resulting in a low yield but rewarding us with truly exceptional quality. Due to climatic conditions in 2014, only 2,000 kg of olives could be harvested, resulting in a mere 216 l of olive oil (9.25 kg of olives are needed to produce one single litre of our olive oil). Luckily, all our efforts resulted in a premium product of exceptional character, albeit of a very limited quantity.

olives Son Alegre Santanyí Mallorca_2

We are always particular about collecting our olives just before they reach maturity. We handpick the fruit and, for maximum freshness, deliver the olives personally to the tafona (oil mill) in Sóller on the same day, just a few hours after they have been harvested. As we do not yet have our own oil mill, we collaborate with the Cooperativa Agrícola de Sant Bartomeu in Sóller, famed for their gentle handling of olives and renowned for their output of oil of the best quality.

olive trees Son Alegre Santanyí Mallorca 2

Our oil is extracted by a high-speed centrifugal process from the olives, without the use of any chemical agents. The result of this process is SILEO, an Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Oli d’oliva verge extra) of a truly superior, organic quality. For added stability we include a modicum of wild olives (Olea oleaster) at a ratio of less than 0.5 %, giving our oil a subtle tang and a truly lucious fragrance.

olive trees Son Alegre Santanyí Mallorca 3

Our olive tree plantation is scrutinized by the rigorous criteria of the Conselleria d’Agricultura, Medi Ambient i Territori as part of the Govern de les Illes Balears. The quality of our oil production is supervised by the Institut de Qualitat Agroalimentària de les Illes Balears (IQUA) and the Consell Regulador de la Denominació d’Origen Oli de Mallorca, allowing us to classify our oil as Oli de Mallorca Denominació d’Origen protegida.

Before bottling, our olive oil is tested by an ENAC-laboratory (Entidad Nacional de Acreditación). Our 2014 SILEO oil was measured with a degree of acidity of 0.5%.

SILEO Extra Virgin Olive Oil is known for its creamy and flawless yet delicately intense fragrance.

Sileo Extra Virgin Olive Oil Santanyí Mallorca_

This year, SILEO is sold in small tin cans of 250 ml. Only 1000 cans are coming to the shops this month; there aren’t any more. That’s the way Nature does it.

The Four Principles of Natural Farming According To Masanobu Fukuoka

natural farming

At Vinya Son Alegre in Santanyí (Mallorca), we aim to apply Natural Farming methods as developed and promoted by Masanobu Fukuoka (1913 – 2008). This Japanese farmer and philosopher was celebrated for his method of Natural Farming and re-vegetation of desertified, arid land.

One day, Fukuoka realized that nature was perfect just as it was. Problems in nature only arise when people try to improve upon nature and use nature strictly for human benefit. He became a proponent of no-till, no-herbicide grain cultivation farming methods traditional to many indigenous cultures, from which he created a particular method of farming, commonly referred to as ‘Natural Farming’ or ‘Do-nothing Farming’.

He summarized his experience in the Four Principles of Natural Farming.

• The earth cultivates itself, observed Fukuoka. There is no need for man to do what roots, worms, and microorganisms do better. Furthermore, ploughing the soil alters the natural environment and promotes the growth of weeds. Therefore, his first principle was: No ploughing or turning of the soil.

• Secondly, in an unaltered natural environment the orderly growth and decay of plant and animal life fertilizes the soil without any help from man. Fertility depletion occurs only when the original growth is eliminated in favour of soil-exhausting food crops or grasses to feed cattle. Adding chemical fertilizers helps the growing crop but not the soil, which continues to deteriorate. Therefore Fukuoka’s second principle is: No chemical fertilizers or prepared compost. Instead he promotes cover crops like clover and alfalfa, which are natural fertilizers.

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• Weeds are the enemy of the farmer. Fukuoka observed that when he ceased ploughing, his weed population declined sharply. This occurred because ploughing actually stirs deep-lying weed seeds and gives them a chance to sprout. Tillage therefore is not the answer to weeds. Nor are chemical herbicides, which disrupt nature’s balance and leave poisons in the earth and water. There is a simpler way. To begin with, weeds need not be wholly eliminated; they can be successfully suppressed by spreading straw over freshly sown ground and by planting ground cover. No weeding by tillage or herbicides is Fukuoka’s third principle.

• Finally, what to do about pests and blights? As Fukuoka’s grain fields and orchards came more and more to resemble a natural ecology – with the proliferation of plant varieties growing all in a jumble – they also created a nature-like habitat for small animals. In such a habitat, Fukuoka noted that nature’s own balancing act prevented any one species from gaining the upper hand. Left to itself, nature prefers hardier stock. Fukuoka’s fourth principle is: No dependence on chemical pesticides.

arbequina olives

(Most of the information on the Four Principles of Natural Farming was taken from the website The One-Straw Revolution and can be studied there in greater detail. Here is a PDF-file of a book by Masanobu Fukuoka, The Natural Way Of Farming, if you want to go deeper into the matter.)