Despite a tricky harvest that led to a smaller olive haul, this year’s SA olive oils still managed to impress the judges with some outstanding contenders. The judging panel of 5 was led by international olive oil expert and sensory scientist, Sue Langstaff from California, and they awarded a total of 19 gold (22%), 34 silver and 26 bronze medals. “Out of the 87 extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) entered in categories for delicate, medium and intense, some 90% were deserving of a medal,” says Langstaff. “This compares well against similar competitions held in other countries – it means the producers have exercised a healthy measure of self-policing by entering mostly olive oils of high quality worthy of a medal.”

The gold medallists in the category for delicate EVOO: Cederberg Olives Frantoio EVOO, Mount Ceder EVOO, Rio Largo, Gold EVOO and Tokara Mission Premium EVOO.

In the category for medium EVOO top honours went to Adamskloof EVOO, De Rustica Estate Medium EVOO, De Rustica Estate Collection EVOO, Green & Gold EVOO, Kleinbergskloof Olive Estate Blend EVOO, Mardouw EVOO, Olyvenbosch EVOO, Serrado EVOO and Wildekrans Keerweer EVOO.

Intense category winners: De Rustica Estate Collection Coratina EVOO, Kransfontein Coratina EVOO, Marbrin Olive Growers Directors Reserve EVOO, Mardouw Premium XXV Intense EVOO, Morgenster EVOO and Porterville Olives’ Andante Intenso EVOO.

Producers who scooped more than one gold medal, includes De Rustica Olive Estate (3) and Mardouw Olive Estate (2).

This was the first year that the judging panel consisted only of professionals who had not entered an oil themselves. The panel consisted of Reni Hildenbrand, Benedetta Lami and Linda Costa, local olive oil experts who regularly serve on international judging panels, and SA Olive tasting members, Birgitta Hofmeyr and Hazel Henman. International panel leader Sue Langstaff is also the leader of the UC Davis Olive Oil Taste Panel and co-editor of the book Olive Oil Sensory Science and creator of The Defects Wheel for Olive Oil.

Over a three-day judging process, olive oils were individually blind tasted and rated. “We do not have access to the bottles to eliminate the chance of recognising the labelling or specific shape of a bottle,” explains Reni Hildenbrand.  “SA Olive has executed yet another adjudication process according to the strict regulations of the International Olive Council (Madrid).”

The judging room had to be kept at a steady 28°C for optimum olive oil consistency, and blue-hued glasses were used so that the oil wasn’t judged on appearance. The glasses also had a special shape which ensured that the aromas were concentrated during the tasting.  The entries were all 100% South African, from producers who are registered with SA Olive.

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