Tokara Olive Oil: Fresh Off the Press
Alchemy, quality and a meaningful dose of passion turn Tokara’s hillside olive groves into liquid gold.
It's not easy to produce extra virgin olive oil. Made using fresh, excellent quality olives picked from healthy olive groves, it’s a process devoid of industrial rendering, a process finely monitored with precision and care under precise temperatures that prevent unsolicited oil degradation. Intentionally foregoing the use of any solvents or preservatives, a mechanical production line crushes the olives and extracts the juice.
The result is unfiltered 'liquid gold' that is free from defects and fermentation; an essence of the green, grass-like flavour of fresh olives.
Tokara, acclaimed for its award-winning wines, also enjoys recognition as one of South Africa’s top producers of world-class extra virgin olive oil. A family-owned estate on the crest of the Helshoogte pass outside Stellenbosch, the wine and olive oil produced on the farm are a true reflection of the region’s rich, healthy soil and warm climate.
With a lengthy harvest taking place from mid-March until well into June, it’s a busy time for olive oil master and operations manager Gert van Dyk. Well-travelled and in tune with the olive varieties of Italy, Van Dyk gently extracts the liquid from the diverse selection of olive varieties as they begin to ripen one after the other.
With more than a decade’s worth of experience in the production of olive oil, Van Dyk’s focus is on retaining all qualities of the olive as it is on the tree, a task he pursues with vigour and passion.
‘A good oil is made on the tree, and at Tokara, I’m lucky enough to be hands-on from the olive groves right through to the final pressing stage,’ he says. Under his watch, the handpicked olives are pressed within 24 hours of being harvested to adequately preserve their unique flavour profiles.
Offering a range of oils that differ in weight and flavour – from mild to the more robust – Tokara produces four merited examples of extra virgin oil that exemplify the unique taste spectrum. These include two single-variety oils – the delicately flavoured Mission and the full-flavoured and spicy Frantoio – as well as two more intense multi-varietal blends.
Tip: Use intense or medium-bodied extra virgin olive oil for heartier meat dishes, and a light, delicate olive oil for fish, vegetables and salad.
‘When tasting olive oil, one looks for fruitiness, bitterness and piquancy – but all the senses come into play – from the aromas and the actual taste to how it feels in your throat,’ explains van Dyk.
ALSO READ: 3 of SA's Brilliant Pinot Noir Wines
While Tokara’s single cultivar or blended extra virgin olive oils are delicious simply tossed through salad leaves, Van Dyk is passionate about their versatility in any creative kitchen. ‘Olive oil isn’t just something to be drizzled over a dish at the end, it should really be seen as an important ingredient,’ he says. ‘A good olive oil brings out the flavour in food. It intensifies and enhances all of the other ingredients in the dish.’
Tip: Keep tasting for the key flavour characteristics of fresh olive oil – you should notice fruity and bitter notes, with a peppery finish.
ALSO READ: Meet Tokara Winemaker Stuart Botha
Visit the Tokara Delicatessen for complimentary olive oil tastings and purchases. For a more structured, guided olive oil tasting experience, visit the Tokara tasting lounge. Bookings are advisable. Call 021 808 5900 or visit tokara.com.
ALSO READ: Jan Harmsgat: A Picturesque Country Escape