Tell us the story of how Terre Di San Vito came to be.
We started with a small plot of land that belonged to our grandparents. They used to grow fruit and vegetables for our large family—eleven children—a lot of mouths to feed! Approximately 20 years ago, our uncle Franco gave up his job and decided to restore the land that had been left by our great-grandparents. He had the soil analysed and found the rust-coloured soil was the perfect environment for growing exceptionally flavoursome grapes and produce. We now have organic status for our land, olives, and grapes.
Over the past 20 years, we have increased the size of our farm to 110 acres, and this has enabled Terre Di San Vito to extend the vineyards and build a cellar, a shop, and a winter wine-tasting room. By adding the neighbouring land to ours, we have been able to increase the number of olive trees and vines while still maintaining traditional values and sustainable methods for working the land. It is indeed a place where work and nature live in perfect harmony.
Family seems to be the heart and soul of Terre Di San Vito; how does this contribute to the success of the business?
We work hard and have the same vision for the land and the products we produce. We discuss ideas and take on board the ideas raised.
The land is run by our uncle Franco, our auntie Lucia, our cousins, and a team that we have known for more than 40 years! They are all counted as our family and are fundamental to our success. Family is so important to us – we rely on, support, and encourage each other as farming is not easy but when a family is doing it together, it is done with love – with all our heart and soul. This is where our success can be seen. Cousins, aunts, and uncles all come together to lend a hand at key points of the year from helping with all the harvesting to working in the shop, making some of the produce, and helping with the wine-tasting tours! Knowing we are all working toward the same goals because of our love of each other and the land, has made the business what it is today, it has made our family strong and proud.
Talk us through the process of how your olive oil is produced.
At Terre Di San Vito, we grow and use Coratina, Ogliarola, and Favolosa olives, and meticulous attention is given to the production process, in particular, harvesting by hand. We believe this is important to ensure optimal quality and flavour. Some of our olive trees are more than 100 years old! Great care and attention are given to all the stages of growing and cultivating our olives for our delicious extra virgin olive oil, and our organic soil is what makes everything here flourish.
Large nets are placed under the trees, and the olives are picked by hand. The branches are also shaken, and we use a type of large rake with blunt tines that we run through the branches to release the olives for collection. This makes sure only the olives that are ready are collected. We do this collection during the day as it is important we don’t harm any birds or animals living in or nesting in the trees.
The olives are then transported to a local mill, where they are washed and the extraction process takes place. Our olives are cold-pressed on the day they are collected, and this gives us our incredible extra virgin olive oil.
The Terre Di San Vito extra virgin olive oil is then stored until we are ready to bottle it in our tinted green bottles, tins, or beautiful handmade terracotta jars. It is in this rich olive oil that we also use to marinate our delicious sundried tomatoes and vegetables.
You have a beautiful selection of jars to store the Terracotta Olive Oil, where did you get the inspiration for these? And how are they made?
This is a task that we have to give full acknowledgement to our Zio Franco, but we all have had our chance to contribute. He is very creative, and his love of history brought the idea to life. The style of the jars is the same as the style of vessels that the people of Puglia have been storing their olive oil and wine in for centuries, each with a unique and distinctive design. They are all designed by our Zio Franco. Once the model has been agreed upon with the potters, they make them by hand, and then each one is hand-painted. We then take them to the processing plant, who have cold-pressed our fabulous olives, and they fill the terracotta jars and seal them with a cork.
The jars are then brought back to the Terre Di San Vito estate, where each jar is sealed with our soft wax and labeled—all by hand.
How did you start working with Lina Stores? Do you have any other specific favourite dishes or products at Lina Stores?
In 2019, at the start of the first Covid lockdown, my brother Johnny decided to import some wine, olive oil, and food from our farm in Puglia as there was no chance we would be able to go there for a while. So we began to look for Italian delis and restaurants that would work well with our family business.
Lina Stores was, in fact, my first choice. Our dad, Michele who is no longer with us, is the older brother of Zio Franco. He came over to the UK some 60 years ago, married my mum, and had 4 children! Being from Bari, food and wine were always so important to him—especially authentic, good-quality food and wine. He used to take us to Lina Stores on Brewer Street in Soho on a Saturday. As we walked in, it was the incredibly rich reminiscent aroma of Italy. We used to look at the enticing meats and our dad would know what we wanted! I’d have a mortadella and mozzarella roll, Johnny a salami and provolone panini and Angie would have whatever she was given! The long counter full of every meat, cheese, and goodies, the shelves of pasta, biscuits, and jams we loved in Italy were there for us, and that memory has stayed with us all our lives. We all still go into the shop and buy our favourite pasta, salami and of course some sweets!
As I write this, I swear I can smell your deli produce – I’ll be in for some mortadella and gorgonzola soon!
What are your hopes for Terre Di San Vito in the future?
I hope our estate in Italy continues to flourish and I’d love to see our wine and olive oil in the most authentic Italian delis, bars, and restaurants across Europe and the UK. I know my family in the UK and in Italy have the same hopes and goals: to continue the legacy and values our great-grandparents handed down to us by doing our best for future generations, the environment and the local community.
You can find the Lina Stores Terracotta Olive Oil from Terre di San Vito in our delicatessens and in our online shop for nationwide delivery.