South Africa’s leading olive oil producers were honoured with gold medals at the annual SA Olive Awards last night (28 August). A total of 17 exceptional extra virgin oils received gold medals in three categories – 3 for Delicate, 8 for Medium and 6 for Intense style oils.
The trio of gold medal winners in the Delicate category are: Cederberg Olives, Muiskraal and Porterville Olives. In the category for Medium olive oils Tokara and Willow Creek clinched 2 gold medals each while Gabriëlskloof, Groote Vallei, Rio Largo Olive Estate and Voordenberg each won one gold. The Intense category yielded 6 gold medallists: L’Ormarins, Marbrin Farm, Morgenster Estate, Mulderbosch Vineyards, Rio Largo Olive Estate and The Ou Pastorie. An additional 35 silver medals and 14 bronze medals were awarded.
The competition, now in its ninth year, attracted 76 locally-produced extra virgin olive oils, which is substantially fewer than the 100 entries received in 2013. According to SA Olive Chairman Nick Wilkinson, this can be attributed to a difficult harvest during which producers have shown commendable resilience. “The challenging harvest conditions placed severe pressure on production. Notwithstanding, the quality of entries received was excellent and thus all the more credit to the award recipients”, said Wilkinson.
The medal contenders were evaluated by an esteemed panel of olive oil experts according to quality, complexity and balance in terms of aroma and taste. This year’s judging line-up comprised international olive oil expert Mauro Amelio from the National Association for Olive Oil Tasters (ONAOO) in Italy. An accredited panel leader, Amelio has run a number of panel and threshold courses around the world and is affiliated with ONAOO as a tutor, taster and scientific advisor. The tasting panel was composed of local olive oil experts Gerrie Duvenage, Reni Hildenbrand, Louise Rabie, Robert Claasens, Leonard Arangies and Benedetta Lami.
The SA Olive Awards are generously sponsored by Absa, Alfa Laval, Oliomio TEM and Pieralisi.
The SA Olive Mentorship Award went to Leana Stevens of Olyfberg. SA Olive introduced this award as part of their ongoing commitment to the mentoring of a new generation of olive growers and creators of olive oil.
In 2014, 113 participants were registered for the Mentorship programme, many of whom have been involved with the project since it was launched in 2008. From these participants, the following five finalists were nominated for the award: Koos Guga (Waverley Hills), Maria Ruiters (Willow Creek), Stevens (Olyfberg), Willem Norman (Cape Olive) and Sylvia de Bruin (Olyvenbosch).
Choosing an award recipient proved very difficult for the judges, as all of the diverse finalists shared inspirational stories of immense personal and professional growth during their involvement with the programme.