L'Astore Masseria

Useful Information

Location: Eastern end of Cutrofiano. On SP 362.
Open: Guided visits and tastings by appointment only. [2014]
Fee: Free. [2014]
Classification: SubterraneaUnderground Factory
Light: Electric
Guided tours:  
Photography: Allowed
Address: L'Astore Masseria, Via G. di Vittorio, 1, 73020 Cutrofiano (Lecce), Tel: +39-0836-542020. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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The Astore Masseria (Astore farm) of the Benegiamo family is producing olive oil and wine. Rather typical is the fact that olive oil is pressed underground: the average temperature of this area, and as a result the underground temperature, is °C. This temperature is ideal to produce oil, becaus higher temperature could destroy the contents of the oil, and lower temperature make the oil too viscous. In former time this was the only way to produce olive oil. Later the artificial heating of the grounded olive allowed higher output but lower quality of the oil. Today the oil which is still traditionally produced, like here, is called extra vergine (extra virgin).

The oil production was initiated by Basilian monks in the Middle Ages. They were clearing bush to plant olive trees. The frantoio ipogeo, the underground olive pressing hall, at L'Astore was built in the 17th century. Today it is renovated and used as a museum, showing the ancient prdouction techniques.

The olives were crushed in a mill, granite wheels powered by mules and donkeys, who were walking around on a wodden yoke. Nearby is the historic wine cellar, with its star shaped vaults based on pillars. The masseria produced wine for centuries, but wine production was suspended in the 1970s. At this time huge amounts of wine were produced mostly for the foreign market. The winery was reactivated 20 years later by a new generation and the main focus is now on high quality wine.