A message from Ariane…
It’s not every day that you meet a movie star like Jean Reno, let alone go into business with him. But I was lucky enough to have a long dinner with the great man and our talk turned to food, to France, and to his passion: olive oil. Not only olive oil, but also the rugged little olive tree that seems to live forever, that is such a strong symbol of peace, immortality and beauty.
Over 25 years ago, Jean found a mas, a traditional farmhouse in Provence, which he purchased with an eye to moving his aged father there. Indeed, the home gave his father peace in his final years and a resting place in death, as Jean buried his father on the property. As you might imagine, he holds a deep affection for Provence and feels a great connection to the place.
Jean Reno among his olive trees.
Since becoming a local, he has learned a lot about the olive trees of the area, more specifically in Maussane-les-Alpilles in the heart of the Vallée des Baux-de-Provence. This region of Southern France has been famous for its olives since the early Roman Empire, and continues to rank as France’s top olive oil producer with AOC status. Olive oil may be France’s best kept secret. Very small amounts are produced in the traditional manner, and it usually stays in the region. Very little is exported.
The olive groves of Maussane-les-Alpilles.
But Jean and I thought it was time to change that. You see, he bought the farmhouse with a little property, and then added a little more, and those acres included some fine olive orchards. Like many in Les-Alpilles, Jean’s trees would produce enough olive oil for his family to enjoy. So he bought more acres of trees to make more olive oil.
He also became involved with the local moulin, or mill, that was producing his olive oil. The moulin follows traditional methods, using great granite stones to crush the olives. Working with them, he developed the blends for his olive oils, and now he’s the president of their association. He is a vocal advocate for true flavors of terroir and for the superb olive oil that flows from the moulin.
The moulin –or mill–is in an ancient Benedictine monastery.
Great chefs like Joël Robuchon and Daniel Boulud knew a good thing when they tasted it, and started using his olive oils in their restaurants. But Jean had a vision to bring his olive oil to a wider audience with the help of D’Artagnan.
That’s how it began, and I am proud that after months of work, we now offer three styles of olive oil, made with olives hand harvested in Reno’s own orchard and pressed in the historic mill famous since 1924 for creating fine quality oils.
Barely a month after the U.S. launch, we are honored that restaurants like Balthazar, Mercer Kitchen, Felix, SoHo Grand and Bistro Vendome in NYC are using our oils on a regular basis. But the excitement about Jean Reno Olive Oil is not limited to Manhattan. In Chicago such luminaries as Graham Elliot, L2O, Les Nomades, Brindille, Belly Q, Acadia and Black Bull are among the many serving it. And in Boston you can taste it at The Four Seasons Hotel. New Jersey restaurants serving it include Highlawn Pavilion, Restaurant Serenade, GP Restaurant, Restaurant Avenue, and Park Ave Club. Le Diplomate in D.C., Philippe’s Wine Cellars in Lafayette, LA and Café de la Presse in San Francisco, CA are just a few of our national clients who appreciate and serve these oils.
Jean Reno olive oil is not yet found in retail stores, so if you want to try it, the best place to go is our website.
Freshly picked olives being sorted.
The olives you will taste in these oils are varieties exclusively grown in the region. They are: Salonenque, Grossane, Béruguette, Verdale des Bouches du Rhône and Picholine.
Another distinction of oil from Maussane-les-Alpilles is that the olives are aged and slightly fermented for a brief period before being crushed under ancient granite millstones, and then mechanically pressed in large scourtins (disks) to extract pure, unfiltered olive oil. This all comes from matters of practicality, as in the old days with limited technology, only so many olives could be picked and processed into oil each day. The ones that got pressed later were more fermented, and it became a hallmark of production in the region.
This aging process, which can last as little as one day or as long as a week, allows the water to evaporate out of the fruit and it makes the flavors more intense. The Fruite Noir, or Black Fruity, variety is a virgin olive oil, and is aged the longest, about seven days. When you taste the oil from this fruit, which is 50% Picholine olive, it’s like eating the olive itself. It tastes like liquid olive tapenade, with a unique fruity flavor that is slightly acidic with subtle aromas of cocoa, bread and roasted artichoke.
All three of Jean’s olive oils are smooth and silky with subtle aromas and terroir rarely encountered outside of France.
The Fruite Vert, or Green Fruity, is aged for one or two days only and the juice is extracted, not pressed. This changes the flavor and aroma immensely; it is fresh, barely acidic, with a peppery note, hints of green herbs, grapefruit and fresh almonds.
The Classic Blend, Extra Virgin Olive Oil offers a mix of four olives that have been aged for three days. It’s well-balanced oil with light floral notes of dried fruits and a fresh peppery aftertaste.
Each of Jean’s oils are made in limited quantities. Do not hesitate to order them soon (they make a nice gift for a food lover).
Watch our video to see what Jean has to say about his oils and get tips on how to use them.
Jean and I appeared together on BFM TV to talk about the project. If you can understand our French, you may enjoy this video in which Jean recommends drinking olive oil straight from the bottle!
And if you enter our contest on Facebook this week you could win all three varieties –autographed by Jean himself.
The autographed bottles.