Against the beautiful backdrop of the Paarl winelands, a group of very knowledgeable and passionate people came together to judge the 93 oils entered into the 2018 SA Olive Awards competition.
There was a mix of expertise, but one thing is certain: they all know their oils. The tasting panel had a more international flavour this year, with judges from Chile (José Mingo) and Argentina (Pablo Canamasas), as well as previous panel leader, Sue Langstaff. Sue is a sensory specialist from California and deftly led the panel over four days of tasting. South African olive oil gurus, Reni Hildenbrand, Benedetta Lami, Birgitta Hofmeyr and Hazel Henman, completed the panel.
That South African extra virgin olive oils are firmly owning their space on the global stage is not only reflected in all the international awards they win, but also in the overwhelming praise from the panel judging the SA Olive Awards entries. In a year of climatic challenges, producers have once again risen to the challenge. Opinions vary as to how these challenges have influenced the taste of the competing oils, but at a time when oils could be bitter, there is actually a ‘wonderful array of aromas and flavours’ according to the judges.
It is a well-known fact that Southern hemisphere countries produce a higher percentage of extra virgin olive oils compared to their Northern hemisphere counterparts. Both José and Pablo indicated that it is time for South Africa to start differentiating its olive oils and educating consumers as to the uniqueness of the South African offering. ‘European, as well as other Southern hemisphere countries, have established country specific identities. South African producers must not be shy to do the same’, says José.
One thing is clear when speaking to both the local and international judges: for a relatively young olive oil producing country, South Africa is definitely making its mark. Producers are innovative and are producing unique oils that stand to perform well in the global marketplace.