The Oliva di Gaeta PDO refers to black table olives, the fruit of the Itrana olive variety, also known as Gaetana.
The production area of Oliva di Gaeta PDO incorporates the surface area of 44 municipalities in the provinces of Latina, Frosinone and Rome, in the Lazio region, and the Province of Caserta, in the Campania region.
The trees are grown using the polyconic vase training system and have a two-year growth cycle. Harvesting must be carried out by hand or with suitable mechanical harvesting tools, when the olives are fully ripe; the epicarp must be black and shiny and the flesh wine red. After the harvest, the olives are stored and transported in aerated containers. The maximum yield of the olive groves must not exceed 7 tonnes per hectare. The olives must be sent for processing, which adheres to the "Itrana system", within 24 hours of being picked. This system involves starting natural lactic acid fermentation through the spontaneous formation of a vast number of microbial flora. The olives are placed in special food containers filled with water until fermentation begins. Once the pH is below 4.5, the olives are moved to different recipients and the stabilising process begins, with the addition of sea salt. During this stage, the product is constantly monitored and water and salt are added regularly so that the olives are never exposed to air. The product can only be sent for packing at least 5 months after salting. The brine must be filtered before the olives are packed.
Appearance and Flavour
Oliva di Gaeta PDO has a slightly tapered shape and ranges from dark pink to purple in colour. The flesh should be completely detached from the pit; it is soft with a typical taste and slightly bitter, acetic and/or lactic.
From the numerous references to trade in table olives (black) found in various historical documents dating back to the Duchy of Gaeta, it is clear that the area governed by the Duchy was the Gaeta olive’s place of origin. The designation «Oliva di Gaeta» can historically be traced back to the name of the territory of origin, to belonging to the Duchy of the same name, as well as that of the port from which ships left to transport black olives to the product’s principal markets. Since then, the designation «Oliva di Gaeta» has been used by traders and producers to indicate the Itrana black table olive obtained with a distinctive local processing system. From a historical viewpoint, the link between the product and the territory is proved by numerous pieces of documentary evidence; there are also many historical references to the processing method used for black table olives.
Oliva di Gaeta PDO is used to produce an excellent olive oil, but there are various other preparation methods, including olives in brine, commonly known as water-cured olives, pickled olives and cracked olives.
The product is marketed as Oliva di Gaeta PDO. It is packed in food recipients with a maximum capacity of 25 litres; in transparent glass recipients with a maximum capacity of 4 litres; in single-use plastic containers with a maximum capacity of 4 litres. Pasteurised brine is permitted, while pasteurised olives are prohibited.
The distinguishing characteristic of Oliva di Gaeta PDO is the way in which the fermentation process is carefully controlled, with the regular addition of brine to ensure that the olives are never exposed to air. This promotes the softening of the olive flesh so that it detaches from the pit.