Suppliers are chosen on the basis of rigorous parameters set out by the company. The first check-ups take place in the olive groves themselves, first checking the healthy growth of the trees and then the olive harvest. Hygiene and process checks are carried out on the oil-presses where the olives are to be milled.
Tasting is carried out on a representative sample of the batch of oil for purchase. The product must be free from defects and have all the necessary qualities for theblending it was designed for. Once it has passed these checks, it undergoes chemical analyses in the company's laboratories to make sure that it is genuine, fresh and passes all of the company's in-house tests, which are far more stringent than those set out by the European Union and international regulations established by the International Oil Council (or IOC). Only at this point is the purchase price agreed on.
Once the batch arrives at company headquarters, it is tasted and analysed again from a sample taken straight from the tanker truck. Only if the parameters are identical to those of the representative sample we had tasted and analysed will the oil be allowed into our storage tanks.
The oil batch is transferred into one of the 50+ in-ground stainless steel tanks, which have to be filled to the brim to make sure that there is as little contact as possible between the oil and the air. If necessary, each in-ground tank can also be filled with nitrogen to make sure that the organoleptic and chemical qualities of the stored oils remain stable over the course of time. During storage, the oils are periodically tasted and chemically analysed to make sure that no alteration or oxidation has taken place that might affect its usability. The oil is vacuum pumped in and out along fixed stainless steel tubes.
Each blend is the result of a decision-making process based on consumer preferences in the market where it is to be sold, finding the right balance between such sensory attributes as fruitiness, bitterness, sweetness and pepperiness. This recipe (or "laboratory blend") is reproduced in small quantities and sent to a tasting panel for comments, after which the blend can be gradually fine-tuned until it is granted final approval. In the case of private labels, the recipe is decided in conjunction with the client. Once it has been approved, the blend undergoes chemical analysis to make sure that all of the parameters meet our strict in-house standards. Only then do we go ahead with creating the actual blend itself, in a special "blending tank" where our "recipes" can be automatically managed in terms of what varieties are used and in what proportions. A sample of the blend is once again tasted and analysed, and finally given a so-called "in-house blend code"
This approved blend is then filtered twice, – once with diatomaceous earth which removes coarser residues, moisture and impurities, and then with filter papers made from pure cellulose (a process known in italian as brillantatura). Each phase is followed by a further specific check-up and chemical analysis. This oil is then stored inside another blending tank, ready to be bottled or canned.
The whole range of Leonardo olive oils is produced on our own premises, where no seed oilvs are either processed or bottled. Also, the oil is transferred from the storage division to the bottling division along seven different stainless steel tubes, each one used exclusively for a specific type of oil. This prevents any possible contamination between blends of different types of oil.
The four high-tech bottling lines were specifically designed so as not to affect the nutritional, sensory and analytical qualities of our oils; special 1-micron filter socks remove any residues or impurities still left in the oil. The bottling lines are systematically sanitised. Before they are filled, the empty containers (bottles and tin cans) are transported along conveyor belts which are completely enclosed by acrylic panels to prevent any extraneous matter from getting in by accident. As a further precaution, each filling station is equipped with a high-pressure air hose mounted upstream from the filling machine. The bottling plant is also equipped with an optical inspection machine, and the bottling process is structured in such a way that company staff can carry out quality checks both on materials.
At the bottling plant, checks are carried out on a continuous basis on the empty bottles, the weight content, the cap seal, the correct position of the labels, the legibility of the batch code and the expiry date, using both cameras and visual checking procedures by company staff. The final assessment of the finished product is made up of tastings and laboratory analysis on each batch.
Scales at the end of the conveyor belt weigh each bottle or can. Cartons and shrink packs are loaded onto pallets and sent to the finished-product warehouse to await delivery to the customer. The bottles, cans and pallets are each labelled with a tag, showing the information required by the Indicod platform and by the company's trackability and traceability systems.