We asked Brenda Wilkinson of Rio Largo Olive Estate how to shop for good quality olive oil and to explain the industry award system… This is a question we are asked so often as there is such a vast choice available on each supermarket shelf. Here are some things to look out for: 1. Intensity. Oils are categorised into intense, medium and delicate oils. Decide which works best for you, and look our for the category on future purchases. 2. Quality assurance. The SA Olive Association, which is based in Paarl, runs a voluntary quality assurance programme for all its members. Any member who commits to compliance with this quality control programme must submit their oil for laboratory and organoleptic testing. The laboratory tests determine whether the oil is within the world standard for extra virgin olive oil and the organoleptic test will verify that the oil has no taste defects. The tests are done annually on completion of harvest and are only valid for that crop. If the results are satisfactory, the producer can attach a sticker of approval from the SA Olive Association on their bottles, which denotes the year of harvest, and verifies that the oil is ‘extra virgin’ and has no taste defects. 3. Labelling. Quite simply, any user of extra virgin olive oil should buy local compliant labels of the latest harvest with the comfort that labelling is truthful and the oil is world class. 4. Awards. In addition to the commitment to compliance quality assurance programme, The SA Olive Association runs a competition annually to recognise the quality of oils on offer to the consumer. The Association invites a panel of about a dozen professional Olive Oil tasters every year (many local but some European as well), to taste each oil submitted for the competition. The entries have to have passed the laboratory test beforehand. The Association then holds a gala evening where the awards are presented. Producers are awarded bronze, silver, gold and double gold medals. Once again a coloured sticker depicting the award is attached to receptacles offered for sale denoting the level of award for that particular oil. This way, you can trust that all South African award winning oils are world class. Rio Largo Olive Estate is a committed member of the SA Olive Association and proud winners of double gold awards in 2010 and 2011.