The 17th annual SA Olive Awards will take place on Thursday, 8th September 2022 at the scenic Laborie Wine Estate in Paarl. This event acknowledges the commitment and pursuit of quality by South African Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) producers.

The judging of all EVOO entries will be done between the 22nd and 26th of August by a panel of local and international olive oil experts, led by Dr Aldo Mazzini. This year’s local judges, all of them members of SA Olive’s tasting panel, are Benedetta Lami, Jackie Loubser and Reni Hildenbrand.

Benedetta Lami

Growing up in Tuscany, Italy, amongst the gorgeous olive groves, Benedetta was taught to appreciate good olive oil from an early age. After becoming a professional olive oil taster in 2007, 2009 saw her pass her Physiological Suitability Test (I.O.O.C. method, Dr Luciano Scarselli) as well as become an official member of the SA Olive tasting panel. Since then, Benedetta has been a regular taster for SA Olive’s CTC (Commitment to Compliance) quality scheme and a judge on the panel for the SA Olive Awards, the ABSA Top 5 and Top 10 competitions.

From 2002 to 2016, Benedetta was the organiser and a taster in the Marco Zichella Awards, an olive oil competition held in memory of her late father.

Her other accolades include being on the judging panel for the Sol D’oro Southern Hemisphere in Cape Town in 2015 and 2018, and in Melbourne in 2016. In 2018, Benedetta attended an Olive Oil Sommelier Master Class in Florence, and became an associate of the prestigious register of the EVOO Savantes after successfully completing a challenging test.


Jackie Loubser

Jackie’s career in olive oil tasting started in 2017 when she attended an EVOO appreciation course held by Linda Costa. Since then, she has attended the EVOO Savantes in 2018 and 2019, when she participated in the Savantes Olive Oil Team Tasting World Championships in Spain. After successfully completing the Savantes tasting course examination, she became an associate. Since 2020, Jackie has been a member the tasting panel of the SA Olive Industry Association and attended numerous courses and workshops. These included an SA Olive course and tasting panel refresher course presented by Aldo Mazzini.  Throughout 2022, Jackie has presented olive oil tasting and food pairing workshops for SA Olive at culinary schools in South Africa.


Reni Hildenbrand

An EVOO and wine producer, Reni has been a member of the SA Olive Industry Association since 1992. She received her Olive Oil Taster Certificate from O.N.A.O.O. in Imperia, Italy, in 2002 and completed an international course for Panel Supervisors of Virgin Olive Oil Tasters at O.N.A.O.O. in 2005. For the past 13 years, she has been a taster and panel leader on the SA Olive organoleptic panel, assessing olive oil quality for the CTC scheme.

Other accolades under Reni’s belt include writing a book titled, ‘Olives and Oil in South Africa’, presenting olives, olive oil and tasting courses, being panel leader in 2016 for Olive NZ in Oakland, being a taster on two panels in Turkey and a taster on the Sol D’ Oro Olive competitions in Peru, Cape Town and Japan.

Lately Reni has presented Olive Oil tasting courses at the Hurst Chef School in Paarl, as well as Val de Vie and Pearl Valley.

SA Olive looks forward to having these three special ladies as part of our judging panel for the 2022 SA Olive Awards.

All 2022 SA Olive Award winners will be announced on Thursday, 8th September 2022.