On a lifestyle property at Skudders Beach near Kerikeri, three year old Isabella has a very important role in the family business.
The day Country magazine called, the toddler was putting labels on bottles of Sovrano limoncello liqueur that
will nd their way into the homes of New Zealanders, Canadians, North Americans and Chinese thanks to the enterprising marketing initiatives of her Italian parents.
Andrea Loggia and Marzia Turcato (pictured, right) originally hail from northern Italy with their families of Sicilian and Mantovan origin, respectively.
The couple rst visited New Zealand in 2004 spending a year based mainly in Northland. They later immigrated here from Milan in 2007 choosing to buy a lifestyle block and settle in Kerikeri where the weather is friendly, the lemons are the nest in the country and where they discovered the best pure alcohol produced in New Zealand.
"Bay of Islands’ lemons have acidity, crispness, and good colour. The ones we use are grown without chemicals which makes a huge di erence to the end product."
Limoncello maker, Andrea Loggia
These factors were vital to the pair’s vision – to create the greatest and purest limoncello in the southern hemisphere.
And with family such an important part of their Italian heritage, their grown sons Paolo and Stefano joined them to help establish the family business. New Zealand-born Isabella is now also an important part of the operation.
Turcato’s family are winemakers while Loggia’s family has a ve-generation liqueur-making tradition. A treasured ‘secret’ family recipe is used to create the tangy and refreshing digestif limoncello which is generally served at the end of a meal to aid digestion.
"We live and work Italian-style here in Kerikeri and use every single corner of the property."
Limoncello maker, Andrea Loggia
With 155 spray-free lemon trees on around 1ha of land, Loggia and Turcato also have to buy in plenty of other Bay of Islands-grown lemons to keep up with demand for the more than 10,000 litres of limoncello they now produce.
“The lemons in the Bay of Islands are simply the best in New Zealand,” states Loggia.
“They have acidity, crispness, and good colour. The ones we use are grown without chemicals which make a huge difference to the end product.
“We use a mixture of four different varieties of lemons in our limoncello. Exactly which ones and in what proportions – we are not telling.
“The secret of limoncello lies in the persistent – but not pungent – pleasant aftertaste.”
Every step of the limoncello-making process from picking the lemons and peeling the fruit through to the labelling is undertaken by hand – just as Loggia’s family has always done.
Now passionate advocates of the Bay of Islands way of life as well as their products, Loggia and Turcato are regular merchants at the farmers’ markets in Paihia and Kerikeri and also travel around the country to food shows and fairs to highlight their wares.
Loggia admits that the limoncello they make here in New Zealand tastes different to that which his family still makes in northern Italy.
“They tell me that ours tastes better. It must be the New Zealand touch,” he laughs.
International judges also con rm that the New Zealand-produced Sovrano Limoncello Original is superior, regularly beating out Italian-made limoncello to scoop top international awards.
Since 2010, it has consistently received accolades in numerous global competitions, most recently taking first place at the 2015 Chicago Beverage Testing Institute Awards where it received a platinum medal with a score of 96/100.
On the back of the success of the classic limoncello, the couple have turned their hand to other liqueurs including a creamy version of the limoncello (thicker, sweeter, paler than the original), orange liqueurs made from Kerikeri fruit, a concoction based on freshly ground coffee and their latest creation – a liqueur made from Northland walnuts.
In order to get a foothold in the untapped Chinese market, Paolo Loggia attended a trade show in Guangzhou, China last year and the family now proudly sends Bay of Islands limoncello to a new audience.
Loggia says that although he’s living in a small country at the bottom of the globe, his product can compete internationally.
“We work all year round – sometimes 24 hours a day to get the products made,” says Loggia.
“It’s relatively easy to do business in and from New Zealand. Back in Italy where there’s 65 million people, there is certainly more business to be had – but there is far more competition.
“New Zealand has the right balance for us.”
Loggia says limoncello is usually served in a small glass, ice cold from the freezer. It’s traditionally sipped, rather than thrown back in one hit like a shot and like most things, it is best in moderation.
“I have to taste the limoncello often as part of the making process. It must be done. I love limoncello but just because we have a tank of it doesn’t mean we have to nish the tank,” he laughs.
“In Italy, limoncello is most often served at Christmas time but in New Zealand, our customers drink it all year round, and also use it in baking and desserts.”
The business now employs many local people and backpackers at key times during the year meaning it is good, says Loggia, for the local Kerikeri economy.
“It also makes very good use of our land. We live and work Italian-style here in Kerikeri and use every single corner of the property.”
The origins of limoncello are not unanimously agreed on with some sources claiming it has been around since the time of the Saracen invasion when it was purportedly drunk by shermen and farmers to fend off the cold.
Others say it dates back to the 1600s when nuns in Italian convents concocted citrus-based liqueurs, while many Italian families also fervently claim that their ancestors were the rst to perfect the recipe generations ago.
Regardless of its pedigree, the fruity liqueur is generally accepted to have originated in southern Italy around Sorrento and the Amal Coast.
The coveted Sorrento lemon is the fruit of choice for limoncello.
The Sorrento lemon has been recognised as a product with Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) – a system which promotes and protects an agricultural product and foodstuff – similar to the appellation system which is used around the world for products like champagne, and Parmigiano- Reggiano and Roquefort cheeses.
The essential oils in the lemon skin are what make the liqueur so special. At its simplest, limoncello is lemon zest steeped in alcohol then mixed with a sugar syrup and bottled.
Andrea Loggia insists that award- winning limoncello is more than the sum of its parts.
- • Non-stick cooking spray
- • 225 grams biscotti or plain biscuits
- • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- • 3 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- • 250 grams fresh whole milk ricotta, drained, at room temperature
- • 450 grams cream cheese, at room temperature
- • 1 1/4 cups sugar
- • 1/2 cup limoncello
- • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray the bottom of a 22cm by 5cm deep baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.
• Finely grind the biscotti or biscuits in a food processor. Add the melted butter and 1 tablespoon of lemon zest, and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture over the bottom (not the sides) of the prepared pan. Bake until the crust is golden, about 15 minutes.
• Cool the crust completely on a cooling rack.
• Blend the ricotta in a clean food processor until smooth. Add the cream cheese and sugar and blend well, stopping the machine occasionally and scraping down the sides of the work bowl. Add limoncello, vanilla, and remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon zest to the food processor and blend. Add the eggs one at a time, and pulse just until blended.
• Pour the cheese mixture over the crust in the pan.
• Place the baking pan in a large roasting pan.
• Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the baking pan. Bake until the cheesecake is golden and the centre of the cake moves slightly when the pan is gently shaken, about 1 hour (the cake will become rm when it is cold).
• Transfer the cake to a rack; cool 1 hour.
• Refrigerate until the cheesecake is cold, at least eight hours and up to two days.