The story of an award-winning olive oil

By Nikita Singh 12 September 2019

Photo by Steve Buissinne on Pixabay

The aroma is elegant and clean with hints of rosemary, tomato and artichoke. On the palate, it’s bold and spicy with flavours of black pepper and almond. This is the journey of an award-winning olive cultivar.

Morgenster’s Don Carlo was awarded “Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the Southern Hemisphere” at the 2019 Olio Nuovo Days held in Paris in June 2019. The monocultivar also won a gold award at the SA Olive Awards held in August.

Best olive oil in the southern hemisphere sounds impressive, but how can consumers discern a good oil from a mediocre one? Thank God It’s Food spoke to the oil producers at Morgenster to find out.

A good olive is something that’s well balanced. It’s not overly bitter, and not overly pungent. The fruit, bitterness and pungency are all in harmony,” says Jason de Beer, global sales and marketing manager at Morgenster.

Award-winning olive oil starts in the orchard. Determining the right time to harvest is the most crucial component in olive oil production.

The olives must be mature but not overripe,” says Federica Bertrand, co-owner of Morgenster Estate.

You can determine when to harvest based on the colour of an olive. Some are ripe at green, others at yellow, and some at red.

Black olives are never a good oil because they are too ripe,” says Bertrand.

The farm manager and oil maker evaluate the orchard every day to assess and track when harvest needs to begin. The fruit on the outer edges of an olive tree will change colour first because they receive the most sunlight.

A mix of red and green olives are carefully picked to avoid damaging the fruit. The olives should not be bruised or damaged, to prevent oxidation.

At Morgenster, the olives are harvested and crushed on the same day. Harvest season usually starts in March, but in 2019 the olives were ready early. Harvest started at the end of February and the Don Carlo olives were last to be harvested in mid-April.

The factory processes olives as soon as they’re ready. If the machines process for 24 hours, they could process up to 20 tonnes of olives per day.

How to determine a good olive oil

In her guidebook, The Olive Oil Companion, olive oil expert Judy Ridgway explains, “All you really need to taste, appreciate and assess olive oil is your sense of smell and taste.”

Smell is the most important sense in tasting. If you have a bad cold and your nose is congested you will not be able to taste anything much. Your sense of taste enables you to detect bitter flavours. It is the mucous membranes at the back of the throat which pick up the hot, peppery flavours. Your mouth is also very important in assessing the texture of an oil.”

Morgenster’s Don Carlo has a distinct bitterness and pungency which is characteristic of high-quality extra virgin olive oil.

The colour of an oil is not an indicator of taste or quality.

Pale yellow oils may be sweet and mild, but they can also be very peppery. You really cannot tell from the colour,” says Ridgway.

Pour it, don’t store it

There are three enemies of olive oil: sunlight, heat, and oxygen,” says De Beer, “as soon as you open the bottle, the oil starts to oxidise.”

When stored correctly, an unopened bottle of olive oil can last up to two years. If you’re like me, you have an expensive bottle saved in the pantry for special occasions. To my dismay, I discovered olive oil should be used within three months after opening. Beyond a few months, the oil may show signs of oxidation and deterioration in quality.

You will know when olive oil is rancid and can no longer be used. On the nose, there are no positive attributes, and the taste is similar to rancid nuts.

Olive oil should be kept away from heat and sunlight, with the lid closed tightly to prevent further oxidation. De Beer advises customers to buy smaller 500ml bottles and use it often. Unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with age. It’s best to follow the old saying, “drink wine old and oil young”. DM



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