Le Vieux Moulin is one of the few olive oil mills in Provence that still use an ancient traditional method. Below, our picture gallery takes you right through the cold press process from start to finish.
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Dating back to the 16th century, Le Vieux Moulin was formerly located in an old village house in Mirabel aux Baronnies.
But production there had to be halted in 2007 because the building could not be converted to comply with new European Union regulations. It now opens during the summer only as a museum / shop.
The working mill moved to nearby Puyméras in Northern Vaucluse, where it welcomes visitors all year round. However the most interesting time to see Le Vieux Moulin at work is during the olive harvest in the late autumn or early winter.
The exact date depends on the weather, of course: the friendly owner, Alain Farnoux, advises phoning before your visit to check. We went in mid-November 2015. It had been a mild autumn that year and the harvest was in full swing.
The hand-picked olives from the Farnoux' own olive groves and various other growers arrive at the mill (image no.2), are washed (no.3) and mashed up by two huge granite wheels, weighing around two tonnes each (no.4). These would once be operated by donkeys, oxen or even men. Luckily, today this step is mechanised!
The pulp then passes via an Archimedean screw pump to a circular grid called a scourtin and made of synthetic fibre. It's spread out to form a sort of giant "pancake" (nos.5 and 6).
The "pancakes" are stacked up in a pile and taken over to the two compressing machines (nos.7 and 8), where the rich green-gold oil is squeezed out (no.9). It's separated from the water which also comes out of the olives by a centrifuge and bottled or stored in each grower's labelled cans (no.10). The entire process takes just over an hour.
Le Vieux Moulin presses around a hundred tonnes of olive oil a year; the pulp, water and other waste products from the pressing are used for fertiliser or fuel. Some oil mills use this residue for cattle feed, lower grade cooking oil or Marseille soap.
At the end of your visit, you can taste the delicious result as well as various other products such as tapenade with Monsieur Farnoux or one of his colleagues (no.11). Enjoy! It's a lovely little excursion, especially if you can time your trip to the area during the black truffle season.
Le Vieux Moulin also has an excellent shop selling both oil and food produce and olive oil based cosmetics. Click here to read about other destinations for olive oil tourism and here for our general introduction to the olive oils of Provence.
Where: Le Vieux Moulin (working oil mill), quartier Maupas, 84110 Puyméras. Tel: (+33) 4 90 12 02 57 There's a large car-park.
Le Vieux Moulin (museum and shop), rue de la République, 26110 Mirabel aux Baronnies. Tel: (+33) 4 75 27 12 02
The two villages are about 35 km / 22 miles north-east of Orange and 58 km / 36 miles north-east of Avignon.
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Photo credits: all images © SJ for Marvellous Provence