Passion Becomes Profession for Agatha Relota Luczo, Olive Oil Sommelier 

Olive oil is something to sniff at — especially when it’s extra virgin. 

That is a belief held by Agatha Relota Luczo, the beauty entrepreneur, high-fashion model and children’s book author, who added olive oil sommelier to her impressive résumé.

Relota Luczo’s passion for olive oil runs deep. “As a kid growing up, my family was obsessed,” said the founder and chief executive officer of Furtuna Skin, whose forebearers moved from Croatia to the U.S. more than a half-century ago. 

The family believed olive oil to be a panacea. “Drops of olive oil heal ear infection,” said Relota Luczo, who had it applied on her hair and skin, as well, as a child. “My mom cooked and did everything with extra virgin olive oil. So I grew up loving it.”

Relota Luczo married financier Stephen Luczo, whose family history helped amplify that passion. At age 10, Luczo promised his grandmother he would locate where she was born deep in the heart of Sicily.

“So 15 years ago, we went on this journey and found the land that was a half-acre large,” said Relota Luczo. The couple ended up buying more than 700 acres surrounding that original plot, located outside the town of Corleone, transforming it into what the entrepreneur calls “this magical farm.”

Today, there are more than 14,000 olive trees on the regenerative farm. It’s all certified organic, and 80 percent is a bio-preserve. “Everything on this land is fed with natural spring water,” Relota Luczo said. “There is no pollution or industry around it. We are the largest employer in our area, as well.”

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The farm in Sicily

Furtuna Skin products’ ingredients, also including medicinal plants and herbs, are also sourced from the estate.

Among the 12 varieties of olive trees growing on the property is the Biancolilla Centinara, brought back from extinction. An olive mill was built, where the fruit is pressed within 24 hours of harvest. 

Relota Luczo and her husband began producing and tasting different olive oil cultivars, which led her to discover the profession of olive oil sommelier. To become one, she took two online programs: the year-long professional olive oil sommelier course at the Escuela Superior del Aceite de Olivia, or ESAO, in Spain, and the Olive Oil Times Education Lab Sommelier Certificate Program, which runs over a week.

“It’s been fun,” said Relota Luczo, who now serves as a judge in olive oil competitions, such as the Olio Nuovo Days in Paris. For those, there are generally first thousands of submissions, which get whittled down to about 20 for review.

“You have the chemical components of the olive oil, but then you need the human component,” she explained. “The reason is that when olive oil is being tested, it can form defects during the bottling process, if it’s not bottled or stored correctly.”

Chemical analysis might not pick up resulting flaws in the oil, whereas a human tongue or nose can. The defects might make olive oil seem fusty, musty or rancid.

“But you’re also tasting for the complexity of extra virgin olive oil,” said Relota Luczo.


Furtuna Skin LXR06 Extra Virgin Olive Oil

That can include how long the flavor lasts in her mouth. “Do you taste the olio console in the back of your throat, the pungency, the bitterness?” she said. “How harmonious are all the different flavors together? For how long does it last?

“You’re tasting to find the best experts in olive oil,” added Relota Luczo.

An olive oil’s odor — its strength or weakness — must be assessed, too. “You are looking at all different angles,” she said. “It’s like a wine sommelier.”

Both are multisensorial.

“Another fun thing I like to do with chefs is food pairing a whole dinner with the different blends of extra virgin olive oil that we have,” said Relota Luczo. “Some are great with salads or better with pastas.”

Closer to home, she takes one shot of Furtuna Skin’s LXR06 extra virgin olive oil each morning for its wellness and beauty attributes. “It’s good for the microbiomes in the stomach, for digestion and regulating your blood sugar, as well,” said Relota Luczo. 

The olives for LXR06 are pressed within six hours of being picked. A 45-minute wait ensues for the foam to disappear. “Then we start bottling it,” she said. “There’s just so much love that goes into making our extra virgin olive oil.”

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