The Western Cape of South Africa is an ideal location for growing olives due to its Mediterranean-style climate. In fact, about 90% of South Africa’s olive producers are located in this region. The Western Cape is where you will find Rio Largo, a sustainably-run olive estate on the banks of the Breede River which produces high quality extra virgin olive oil that has been consistently winning awards since 2007.
Rio Largo is owned and managed by Nick and Brenda Wilkinson, who took over the estate in 2010 from previous owner Carlos Raposo. Nick and Brenda have an interesting background. Nick spent 20 years in the corporate world “fixing” failed large scale farming enterprises on behalf of blue chip international investors. Brenda created several businesses including a hotel guide in Zambia, a school, and a furniture business. Although they didn’t start their careers in the olive oil industry, they certainly have the hard-working ethos, dedication, passion, and attention to detail which is required to produce excellent olive oil year after year.
The Wilkinsons run their olive estate sustainably and responsibly, making sure to support their local community whenever they can:
– the olives are hand-picked, which not only minimizes bruising and damage to the olive fruits but also provides much needed employment to the people who live in the area
– the estate employes biological farming methods to maintain healthy soils and crops by ensuring they “put more back in that they take out”
– the company is committed to protecting the environment for future generations
– they recently chose the South African artist Frans Groenwald to design the artwork for their new 2-litre foil-lined i-Tube. The i-Tube is an innovative way to store olive oil which keeps the product very fresh by eliminating any contact with air or light. The i-Tube comes with a handy tap which makes it easy to use. With Groenwald’s vibrant artwork on the i-Tube, it is a beautiful addition to your kitchen or table top.
March to July is olive harvesting time in the southern hemisphere, so Rio Largo’s new harvest for 2015 has just started being picked at the time of writing. Although South Africa does have a native olive cultivar (Olea africana), it is considered inedible. Instead, the locally grown olive cultivars (olive types) which are used for making olive oil in South Africa have been imported largely from Italy.
Rio Largo grows the Italian olive cultivars Frantoio (fruity), Coratina (pungent, peppery), Leccino (mild), and FS-17/Favolosa (herbaceous), and their oils are a blend of these varieties. After being hand-picked, the fruit is crushed on the same day and stored by cultivar in stainless steel tanks. It is bottled on order, keeping it as fresh as possible from tree to table.
The olive oil I tried was the Rio Largo Premium Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It has a free acidity level of less than 0.5% and a peroxide level of less than 15 (extra virgin olive oil should have a free acidity level of less than 0.8% and a peroxide level of less than 20).
I poured about a tablespoon of the oil into a small cup and warmed it between my hands to help release the flavors and aromas. It was a beautiful yellow color (note: color is not an indication of quality). The aroma was green and herbaceous. The first flavor I could taste was something green like artichoke or asparagus. After that, I could taste a moment of tomato on my tongue before being taken over by a slight bitterness and a lingering pepperiness at the back of my throat (strong but not enough to make me cough). For more details on how to taste olive oil, see my Tutorial: How To Buy Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
I bought my 250ml bottle of Rio Largo from Spinneys in Dubai for AED29. For more information about Rio Largo and where to purchase their extra virgin olive oil, visit Rio Largo’s website.
Share your thoughts: If you have you tried Rio Largo’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil, share your thoughts in the comment section below.
- I purchased a 250ml bottle of Rio Largo Premium Blend Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Spinney’s in Dubai (UAE) for AED29. All opinions are my own.