If the vine is the queen of Château Virant, then the olive tree is it’s king.
The Cheylan family has been producing olive oil for more than 5 generations, and olive oil has always been at the heart of our family’s cooking. We are proud to say that olive oil production at Château Virant has only increased with each passing year. Today, our olive groves expand past the estate’s boundaries to the surrounding Provencal hillsides to encompass 42 total hectares of carefully tended olive trees. The majority of our groves are comprised of the hardy trees which survived the damaging frost of 1956. These special trees stand apart with their unique trunks. The original trunk, cut low to save the tree, forms the basis of the tree around which new branches have grown that bear the olives we pick today. Damaged but resilient, these special trees are unique to Provence and reflect our dedication to olive oil production.
It is their remarkable appearance that grants a distinctive look to the Château Virant olive groves. Through a tour of our estate, you will truly be able to appreciate the strength, beauty, and serenity that emanates from these special trees. On a sunny day, as you meander through the endless rows of olive trees with the rocky soil beneath your feet, you will feel the sacredness of this ancient fruit.
Our love for the land and our dedication to the craft of oil making serve as the foundation for our reputation at Château Virant. The expert cultivation of our groves and the careful management of our natural resources have yielded a bountiful harvest year after year.
We spend all year tending to our trees and preparing for the fall harvest. After a winter hibernation, the olive trees awaken in the spring with white flowers exploding on the branches that will soon blossom into fruit which will mature as the summer progresses. From mid-September onward, olives are tested for maturity to determine optimal aromatic intensity of the fruit and determine a harvest date.
Traditionally in Provence, olives were picked in late fall. There is an old Provencal saying: ‘the oil is in the olive by St. Catherine’s Day” (November 25). However, this is no longer relevant. Today, harvesting season starts anytime the olives are ready, usually after mid-October. Our farmers use traditional techniques to pick the fruit efficiently. They spread nets on the ground and use hand held tools like vibrating combs to cull the fruit from the trees. Freshly picked, the olives are packed into open sided crates and immediately brought to the mill on the Château Virant property for processing.
With mechanized tools, the manufacture of olive oil may seem modern, but olive harvesting is really an ancient craft, one that has remained a staple of the south of France, especially in the Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur (PACA) region.
After the olives are brought to the mill, they are washed, stripped, and finally crushed. The resulting paste is kneaded and pressed using centrifugal force in order to finally obtain the pure oil. The entire extraction takes place using cold temperatures (less than 20℃). The cold press allows for the aromas and the natural antioxidants of the fruit to remain in the resulting oil.
During the processing period, the mill buzzes with energy and constant activity. The heady aroma of processed olives fills the air. The mill becomes a magical place, an enchantment for the senses.
The Château Virant’s olives are milled the night after harvest. During the day, neighboring farmers bring their olives to the mill to be turned into oil. Today, the mill processes the crops of more than 3,000 olive farmers. The mill completes orders both large and small. We always process all of the fruit brought to our mill, no matter the quantity. Our smallest orders include baskets of olives that neighbors bring to us picked fresh from their own gardens.
Quality and excellence are our standards. While technology is used to press olives, expertise is essential. It is our knowledge and experience that make all of the difference.
We carefully execute all stages of the oil making process. Nothing is left to chance. It is our attention to detail that ensures that the oils produced here, grown in our orchards and processed in our mill, continue to be among the most highly awarded olive oils in all of France.
Every year since 2012, under the leadership of Christine Cheylan, the mill has earned the prestigious French label Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (EPV). This distinction recognizes the most elite artisans in France.
The Château Virant mill also proudly boasts an Organic Agriculture certification, meaning it produces truly organic olive oil, made without chemical ingredients or processing methods. Today, the Château Virant is one of the most distinguished mills in France for processing and selling 100% French olive oils.
After the busy harvest and processing time, the mill quiets but doesn’t sleep. After the oil is extracted, it is time for filtration and packaging. Just like the work of a sommelier, that of the miller and oleologist is demanding. All of the olives that come to the mill are destined for specific vats according to their variety. The goal is to produce exceptional oils. After several blends, the oil will achieve its perfect balance. Only then will it be worthy of the Château Virant label.
All of our oils are stored in stainless steel tanks under inert nitrogen gas, preserving the aromatic, antioxidant oil.
The Salonenque and Aglandau varieties constitute 80% of the olive grove of the Salonenque estate.
Each variety produces its own extra virgin olive oil, each with its own distinct aroma.
Since we process these native olives in our mill, we are also recognized with the Appellation Aix en Provence noting the authenticity of our product.
Thanks to winning prestigious awards at the Concours Général Agricole of Paris and other top competitions, olive oils from Château Virant have increasingly been recognized as quality products and a necessity on gourmet tables around the world. The online store is an easy way to obtain this classic staple of Provencal cuisine. However, a visit to the estate itself will allow you to soak up the atmosphere of our unique olive groves and view the magic that happens in our very own mill.