Michele Labarile is the Monini Quality Manager.
It seems almost impossible for someone to be so passionate about his job that he forgets he is working, but that’s Michele for you. With a three-decade career in the oil industry, Michele is responsible for assessing the extra virgin olive oil samples, which make up the Monini blends. This also includes the final product, scrutinising the oil’s quality that ends up on supermarket shelves and in kitchens across the world. Since first exploring the olive groves of his native Puglia, Michele knew this industry was his destiny, a life devoted to olive oil.
As a young man, his passion led him to give gifts of ultra-fine Greek, Tuscan and Umbrian oils, with their full flavoured and spicy taste.This enthusiasm inevitably led to clashes with his compatriots, as they were used to diverse flavours, those typical of the oils from Apulia. This shows taste is subjective, and frequently culturally determined rather than a matter of actual oil quality. Flavour and preference are culturally generated but we can all train our taste buds to new flavours and to an even greater extent, quality.
The first step is learning to recognise quality by comparing and contrasting by tasting a variety of oils,. For example, at the supermarket a useful strategy is buying bottles of different oils to assess the various flavours and aromas. By doing so you will discover what tasters call ‘good oil’ even without experience, it’ll probably just be the one you like best. All you need to do is train your palate to follow the flavours.
Working at a company like Monini is not simply a matter of taking part in the creation of a product that’s consumed by millions of people every day. It’s also about taking responsibility for it, in the most spiritual sense of the word. All staff have to know how to recognise a good oil, even the smallest details in the production process are what make quality great.