This year we have pressed two very different Extra Virgin Olive Oils.
1. Robust Olive Oil
This Extra Virgin Olive Oil was pressed from Frantoio olives, the olives used in this vintage are from high up on the Picketburg Mountains, the trees are very old, and are not irrigated, relying only on natural rain fall and the morning mists.
The oil is lime green in colour which is characteristic of an oil made early in the season and has an aroma reminiscent of wild artichokes. In the mouth your first experience is the flavor of the artichoke followed by a medium level of bitterness as the oil rolls over the back of the tongue. Once swallowed you are immediately made aware of its freshness as the strong piquancy comes through.
This olive oil would be described in a single word as robust, and is ideal for salads, pasta, baked potatoes, in fact in any situation where you want the olive oil to be one of the flavors present in what you are eating.
2. Mellow Olive Oil
This Extra Virgin Olive Oil was pressed from Early Harvest Mission Olives, with a high percentage of green unripe olives, the intention being to offset a reduction in quantity of oil against an increase in the aroma and taste. The olives come from groves that grow along side wheat fields in the Darling area. The groves are regularly irrigated and the higher water content in the olive accounts for the mildness of the oil.
The oil is a golden colour with just a tinge of green and has that traditional grassy aroma which is so typical of Mission Olives. In the mouth you will experience the grassiness, a mild bitterness and a similarly mild piquancy.
This is a characteristically mellow olive oil and is ideal for cooking fish, and fried foods as the taste is mild enough not to over power the flavor of the food.
Both these Olive Oils are available in either 500ml or 250ml bottles.
When I was a child the only thing that the average person used Olive Oil for was to cure earache, says Michael Meredith, the Olive Oil maker at the Riebeeck Olive Boutique in Riebeeck Kasteel. Those days are long gone, and the average South African consumer is keen to use Olive Oil in ever increasing quantities, as they become more health conscious.
However says Michael, many consumers are very confused about what Olive Oil to buy, in most supermarkets they are faced with an ever increasing number of choices. When we have visitors at the Boutique, I often ask them how they make their choice; the most common criteria appear to be Origin (it must be imported), price (it must be cheap) and an attractive label.
Michael says that unfortunately none of those methods will ensure a quality Olive Oil, if you want to be sure that you are buying a quality Olive Oil you need to be aware of the new European regulations that relate to the bottling and labeling of Olive Oil.
From the first of January 2003 the European regulations relating to Olive Oil have been changed, and a bottle of oil that says it contains Olive Oil may not be what you think. The new regulations now allow a bottle labeled “Olive Oil” to contain both refined and blended oil, Michael goes on to explain why. Unlike South Africa where a large percentage of our Olive Oil can be graded as Extra Virgin, in the European community the opposite is true, this means that before it can be bottled it needs to be manipulated with chemical and physical treatments to make it both safe and palatable.
With the old regulations this fact would have had to appear on the label, with the new regulations this requirement no longer exists.
The only way that you can be sure that an Olive Oil is the real thing is to look for the name “Olio Di Oliva” or “Oil of the Olive”; if the label says that then you can be sure that it contains the real thing.
In South Africa there are no regulations that control the Olive Oil industry and consequently most of the Olive Oil producers voluntarily apply the European regulations, for this reason we, the Olive Boutique, have changed our label to “Oil of the Olive” so that the consumer can be guaranteed that our Olive Oil is the real thing.
Michael says the best way to be sure of getting quality Olive Oil is to buy South African.