Christine Cheylan, you are the owner of the mill of Château Virant which is considered by a number of olive oil enthusiasts as one of the best mills in France. How did it earn that reputation?
I assume that this is due to all the prizes and labels we have received! Since 1996, every year our oils are invariably awarded in the National Agricultural Competition of Paris and in several international competitions. Gold medal, first or prize of excellence, I was told that I had the best French oil ranking.
In any case, I am very proud that my mill was the first one in France to obtain the label of « Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant, or Living Patrimony Company », a state label that rewards the know-how of excellence.
For me, the expertise at the mill should be essential to its reputation. When we created the oil mill at Château Virant, I was young, only 26, but due to my initial training, I systematically applied myself to understand and master all the parameters that make for a quality olive oil.
However, I quickly learned that knowing how to make a quality olive oil was not enough. It was necessary to live it daily to really understand. Indeed, the basis of expertise lies in extensive empirical research, a constant demand for quality with a trained eye on every step of the transformation process, an impeccable hygiene, and a lot of work and time spent at the mill…but when you love, you don’t count, do you?
And this commitment to excellence must be enduring to be recognized. I may surprise you but when I was younger, I thought to myself : « but why me, why are my oils at the top and not the others » and it took me a few years to admit that my expertise may have had something to do with it (Laughs!!)
At last, maybe that’s the point, « without passion, nothing is good! » I like this saying. It is so reflective of my state of mind.
It is true that I’m passionate about olive oil, this mythical product which is as old as the world, but is still so modern! And I sincerely believe that this passion also contributes to the reputation of my mill.
The passion shows! I always say that my mill has a soul. Even though in appearance, it has very modern machines, there is an atmosphere, positive vibes. It feels good!!
The oils H of Leos in general and L’Huile H of Domaine Leos in particular are considered to be very high-quality olive oils. In your opinion, what makes an oil a great oil?
The oils H of Leos are indeed remarkable oils. They carry the spirit of excellence already recognised in L’Huile H. To me, an exceptional oil is a product that doesn’t lie! For instance, as the H of Leos line was being developed, I could immediately appreciate their potential. Each time they are bottled, I notice that the quality will last over time which is proof of their excellence. As with all oils of great quality, they are a clever mix of well-orchestrated attributes. First of all, a remarkable terroir (which is essential), followed by maintenance and a rigorous cultivation protocol, and of course nice varieties and healthy fruit at optimum organoleptic maturity, picked neither too early nor too late. Finally, it requires a mill with irreproachable standards and, as I said before, the skill of the miller.
Of course, once all this is put together and the oil is processed, you need quality equipment to filter it, to store it away from oxygen in stainless steel tanks maintained under nitrogen in a cool room (temperature controlled) to ensure proper storage of the product.
You personally supervised the production of the oils H of Leos, how would you characterise them ?
They are all part of the same quest for excellence, authenticity and character but each of them has its own uniqueness. L’Huile H of Domaine Leos is an aromatic and balanced « fruity green » with intense flavours that give it a very nice length in the mouth. When tasting it, it is like walking through your garden. Notes of fresh herbs are present together with a floral touch. For all that, it is an oil of character because its final peppery hint (due to antioxidants) contributes to its presence in the mouth. It is characterised by a note of freshness that gives it its smoothness and balance.
The H of Leos Selection fruity green line, which is a PDO Provence, comes close to L’Huile H of Domaine Leos because of its intense nose, its herbaceous notes and its length in the mouth, but it also possesses the scent of raw artichoke which can be associated with orgeat and red fruits, complemented by aromas of banana, hazelnut, fresh almond, and tomato leaves. On the palate, its bitterness and intensity are slightly less noticeable than in L’Huile H of Domaine Leos. Lastly, the H of Leos Selection fruity ripe line is characterised by the colour, taste, aromatic subtlety, and softness of an « original » fruity ripe. There are scents of almond, yellow or red fruit (plum, exotic fruit, ripe apple) but also floral and Linden aromas.
These are simply very beautiful oils which may surprise, but will undoubtedly delight those who taste them!