A Mahurangi West producer has won the Best in Show award at the 2017 Oliveti Olive Oil Awards.
298 Olives won Gold for their extra virgin olive oil, which was entered in the “Intense-Blend” category.
This category deals with oils made primarily from green olives that are not fully ripe.
Judges lauded the oil for its fresh aroma, evocative of deep forest and rough stem herbs and its flavours of green pepper, apple, lemon and vanilla.
Head judge Adva Webber says the 298 oil achieved a perfect harmony between fruitiness, bitterness and pungency, with no single attribute overwhelming the others.
298 owners Debbie Hinton and Sean Jeffery say despite their win, they consider themselves still in a “learning phase”, figuring out the blends that work, when it’s the best time to pick and how extensively to prune.
They shun pesticides and fertilisers except for sheep dung.
Debbie and Sean’s interest in olives came accidentally when they purchased a property with 350 established trees.
At first, they were unsure what do with them until family and friends encouraged them to undertake harvesting in 2014.
Their oil has been winning awards ever since, but this is the first time they have taken Gold.
In a good year, 298 can produce 250 litres of oil and they would like to expand their business through online sales and the production of items such as olive leaf tea and skin care products with an olive oil base.
Other olive producers in the Rodney area to win at the awards, which covers Auckland and Northland, were Salumeria (Silver and Best in Class in the Medium-Blend category), Duck Creek (Silver, Medium-Blend), Miller’s Ark (Silver, Medium-Blend) and Les and Kay Woodhams (Bronze, Intense-Blend).
Adva Webber says producers faced a tough year in 2017 due to a wet period when the fruit began to emerge on trees.
Nevertheless, they still managed to produce outstanding oils, which will only cement Auckland and Northland’s reputation for making a product that compares favourably with the best in the world.
“While it’s still a fledgling industry of boutique growers in the north, they produce high-end, high quality oils that are better than gold medal olive oils from Italy,” she says.
She says while commercial olive growing in New Zealand started in Marlborough, the north offers more potential due to its warmer climate.
Moreover, it has the opportunity to produce olives ready to be eaten at the table rather than just turned into oil.
“I see a good future for olives in New Zealand and this area in particular,” she says.