Located in the heart of the Luberon Regional Park, La Bastide du Laval has been designed to help guests slow down and appreciate the Provençal way of life: feeling, tasting and learning. More than simply a production house, the mill at the Bastide is a real educational venue focused on olives, olive oil and the region itself.
Carine and Roland Coupat give meaning to the concept of ‘oleotourism’ by welcoming tourists for visits to the mill and olive grove. Visits incorporate walks along marked trails, learning about olive cultivation, an introduction to the different varieties of fruity olives, tastings and cooking classes.
The olive grove is located in the Provençal olive oil AOP zone, which guarantees a quality terroir and production method. The olive trees on the estate produce a small crop because they are pruned each year – so they concentrate their qualities in the few olives they do produce.
Aglandau is the most planted variety of olives in Vaucluse and also the most frequently harvested at La Bastide du Laval, second to the Salonenque, Picholine, Bouteillan and Cayon varieties. Aglandau and Picholine are particularly rich in antioxidants, ensuring good conservation of the oil. In the mouth, they are characterised by their ‘ardence’, creating a slight tingling in the back of the throat.
The ‘oliveron’ is the both an olive grower and a miller. This is the role Carine and Roland Coupat have played since 2014. “When we started to really look after the trees, it was no longer possible to take risks during their development – so the idea slowly matured in our minds to build a mill and train ourselves to grind our own olives to extract the oil. Hence we’re both growers and millers!”
The harvest is carried out manually with combs and fillets, from the end of October to December. The freshly picked olives arrive directly at the mill. For Roland, “treating olives in our own mill minimises the time between harvesting and trituration, thus avoiding any risk of fermentation or loss of flavour”.The crushing is done without adding water, to ensure optimum quality of the oil.
Every January, Roland settles in front of his oil samples and tries to find the right balance between bitterness and ‘ardence’ by subtly mixing in order to create the perfect olive oil.
At each tasting, Roland uses a blue glass (official tasting glass from the International Olive Oil Committee) which he slowly turns to release the aromas. The dark colour of the glass prevents staining by the oil. Once the oils are selected, bottling is also done at the mill.
Since 2009, nine medals awarded by the Concours Général Agricole in Paris have rewarded the work of these passionate olive growers. The recognition goes further, as many chefs have adopted at least one of the mill’s oils in their cooking, including Michel and Cesar Troigros and Guillaume Gomez at the Élysée Palace.
Don’t forget: olive oil is a condiment. The bitterness, pungency, quality and freshness can be easily perceived during tasting but disappear when used in food. Of course, there are also the olives themselves, which can be equally appreciated by lovers of good olive oil.