Putting olive oil to the taste

Swirl, sniff, sip and spit — the four Ss of the great wine experience are very much the code of this tasting. Except that part about the two nostrils separately. This was no sauvignon blanc that was under discussion, but an engaging olive oil tasting.

It is easy to understand the similarity of these two connoisseur tests. After all, grape vines and olive trees epitomise the culinary experience of the romantic Old World. What the senses are used to in the enjoyment of wine simply needs a little sharpening up for the quality olive oil pleasures.

When the happy crowd afterwards lingered with the deeply satisfying pleasures of perfect, simple pasta and a couple of solid real sauvignon blancs, it seemed as if the formalities of the oil tasting had sharpened our enjoyment of the food and the wine Anetha Conan offered.

When Tony Mossop’s Axe Hill five-star ‘port” in its sweet little bottle began doing the rounds, we toasted another successful evening when wine and food combines in harmony — anointed with some superb golden liquor.

What cheered us all was the fact that the Cape’s olive oils are excellent. By now the message is getting through about Morgenster and Vesuvius winning those fancy awards in international competitions, but how often does one get to compare what olive oil really taste like?

Morgenster’s Gerrie Duvenhage conducted the intimate blind tasting in the nicest of surroundings — the Wine Concepts shop at the Castle of Good Hope. He presented a line-up of five, including a supermarket import that didn’t even come fifth!

The link between top quality olive oil and handcrafted wines was clear from the start: except one oil that goes under the with-it name of So-Go and is presented in a nifty table-friendly bottle, the other three South African oils came from wine estates of note.

Saxenburg, Kloovenburg and Morgenster make outstanding wines — and exceptional olive oils. The focus and dedication required to express the finest in the cellar from quality vineyards, rings equally true for olive oil. As Duvenhage explained, the aim is to catch the freshest elegance in the oil.

His Morgenster 2001 pressing is certainly magnificent and we all liked the delicate balance of bitter and sweet, the pepper and those fresh artichoke notes.

Pepperiness being the operative attribute for olive oil, it makes poetic sense that Kloovenburg’s shiraz boasts plenty of that, as well as delicious spice and smokiness. The debut 1998 promptly got a four-star Platter rating.

Make no mistake — these are products of devotees who add a great deal of value to the Cape’s image of excellence.

Saxon hotel in Johannesburg is holding an olive oil tasting course from 9am on September 17 and 18 at R375 a person, including lunch. For more information contact Tritium Media on Tel: (021) 434 4425. Morgenster: Tasting and sales by appointment on Tel: (021) 852 1738. Saxenburg: Tel: (021) 903 6113. Kloovenburg: (022) 448 1035. Wine Concepts: Castle of Good Hope, Tel: (021) 465 8707.

Melvyn Minnaar
Guest Author

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