Christine Cheylan, you are the owner of the mill of Château Virant, which is considered by many olive oil amateurs as one of the best mills in France. What is it that makes the reputation of your mill?
I guess it is due to all the prizes and labels we have received! Since 1996, every year, our oils are invariably awarded at the General Agriculture Contest of Paris and in several international competitions. Gold medal, First Prize or Excellence Award, I was told that I had the most successful track record among French olive oil-makers.
Above all, I am very proud that my mill was the first one in France to obtain the ‘Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant’ (Live Heritage Company) award, a state label that rewards excellence in savoir-faire.
For me, savoir-faire at the mill should be fundamental in the reputation of a mill.
I was young since I was 26 years-old when the oil mill of Château Virant was created but I have always made it a point, because of my initial education, to understand and master all the parameters involved in the quality of an olive oil.
But, I also realized quickly that it was not enough to know how to make a quality olive oil that you actually had to live it on a daily basis in order to really understand it. The essence of savoir-faire lies of course on a lot of empirical research, a constant, astute quest for quality every step of the transformation process, the highest hygiene standards and a lot of work and presence at the mill… but, when you love you don’t count the costs, right?
And this quest for excellence must be long-lasting in order to be recognized. This might surprise you but when I was younger, I used to ask myself: ‘But why me? Why are my oils at the top of the bill and not the others?’ and it took me some years to admit that my know-how had something to do with it (laughter)!!!
And, that’s probably what matters most: ‘nothing great can be accomplished without passion!’ I like this saying. It sums up exactly how I feel. It is true that I am passionate about olive oil, this mythical product: as old as the world but at the same time so modern! And I do believe that this passion contributes to the reputation of my mill.
You have to breathe passion! I always say that my mill has a soul. Even if, in outwardly it is mostly modern machines, there is an atmosphere; there are positive vibes. It feels good to be here!!!
L'Huile H of Domaine Leos is considered as a high-end oil. What would you say makes an oil great?
L'Huile H is indeed a unique oil, and as such, it is a product that does not lie! I was immediately able to gauge its potential when it was in the making, and now that it is bottled, I know that its quality will keep through time; and this proves its excellence. Like all high quality oils, it is a perfect blend of well-orchestrated factors. First of all, a terroir (which is essential), then it has wonderful varieties and sound fruits, fresh at their optimal organoleptic potential, harvested neither too early and definitely not too late. And finally, you need a fully functional mill with the highest standards and, as I have already said, you have the savoir-faire of the miller.
Naturally, once all these elements have been gathered and the oil is made, you need quality equipment because you need to filter the oil and to store it away from oxygen, in nitrogenated stainless steel vats placed in a cool (air-conditioned) room so as to ensure perfect preservation of the product.
You have personally supervised the production of L'Huile H. What would say are its characteristics?
L'Huile H is an aromatic and very balanced oil with intense aromas which gives it a very long and enjoyable finish. Tasting it feels like a walk in a garden. Hints of fresh grass are released with a floral touch. However, it is an intense oil with a peppered flavor on the finish – thanks to antioxidants – which contributes to its structure in the palate. It is characterized by a fresh note which gives it smoothness and harmony. It’s simply a very beautiful oil which may surprise, but that will doubtless delight those who are going to enjoy it.