What you need to know about olive oil tasting and the Breede Valley

Posted by David Henning on 29 July 2021

Olive oil tastings are not necessarily considered an activity, even if you venture out to the Winelands. The tendency is to speed past the olive groves to the next wine tasting. But South Africa has a reputable standard as an olive producer, with some estates producing some of the best extra virgin olive oil in the world, and we want everyone to know about it.

The Riebeeck Kasteel annual Olive Festival is one event that celebrates it and there are some exceptional olive farms scattered throughout the Western Cape. We put together a list of olive farms in the lesser-known Breede Valley you should visit next time you take the road.

Credit: Robert Wallace

The Breede Valley climate can be harsh, but the olives are grown are soft, fruity and delicate, a lovely companion to the warm hospitality received in the valley. Here’s a list of a few of the olive farms in the region but first, let’s see what you know about olive oil tasting

Tasting Olive Oil

We need to know to our stuff about olive oil, specifically extra virgin olive oil and what makes it unique. According to Extra Virgin Olive Oil South Africa, virgin is the highest grade of olive oil derived from cold extraction without the use of solvents and refining methods. What makes it ‘extra’ requires a more technical explanation; but basically it shows no defects on sensory analysis, has an acidity of no more than 0.8% and peroxides lower than 20 meq/kg (an indicator of freshness).

Extra virgin olive oil comes in three styles: Delicate: subtle, fresh and fruity. Medium: good balance of fruity, peppery aftertaste and bitterness. Lastly, Intense: very fruity and pungent with a strong bite of bitterness.

Time to taste

Firstly, pour the olive oil into a glass and give it a good swirl while sealing the top of the glass with your hand. Uncover the glass and give it a good whiff, much like you would with wine tasting. Now take a nice slurp, being sure to take some air in so that the flavours can aerate in your mouth. Try and identify the flavours you sense, noting the pepperiness and the bitterness.

You are not expected to be a sommelier, so remember to have fun when tasting. To some, the idea of sipping oil may not sound appetising, farms often provide bread to dip in the oil. But tasting extra virgin olive oil is a flavour sensation, especially when considering South Africa’s olive producers are world-class.

If oil tasting still doesn’t sound like your cup of tea olive oil producers are also great at making table olives and various tapenades. Here are a few olive farms in the Breede Valley that will welcome you with arms wide open.

Rio Largo Olive Estate

A bit off the beaten track. When looking up their address, you will find that it is located on an unnamed road between Worcester and Robertson on the southern banks of the Breede River. But it is well worth the detour with their gratitude for visiting their farm and more personal tastings.

The farm emphasises the green, fresh flavours, individually tasting oils before blending. The farm also adopts biological farming methods for sustainable agriculture. The farm only offers tastings on an appointment basis, so be sure to contact them here.

Olyfberg

Situated on the outskirts of Robertson, Olyfberg’s range includes oils, balsamic, tapenades and even olive oil soap. The farm boasts 75 hectares of olive orchards. Selected as one of the top 10 olive oils in South Africa. Olives are handpicked and cold-pressed on the farm with larger olives chosen for juicy table olives. Open for tastings on weekdays only.

Willow Creek

Situated in the Picturesque Nuy Valley between Worcester and Roberston, Willow Creek comprises 160 000 olive trees, pressing their first award-winning oil in 2002. With the widest range of infused oils, table olives, tapenades and pestos, a visit will have you wondering if you have enough space in the boot.

Marbrin Olive Farm

Listed as the number one thing to do in Robertson, Marbrin is a boutique run, family-owned farm. The options to taste at Marbrin include their wide range of products such as infused olive oils and olive pastes, all grown and produced on the farm. There are also Tapas on request focused on local and seasonal ingredients, showcasing the ways you can use the products produced at Marbrin.






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