{news} TOKARA trounces challenging year with olive oil bounty

Undeterred by the untold challenges of a year besieged by Covid-19, TOKARA, the family owned Stellenbosch wine and olive estate, has prevailed with a phenomenal 2020 olive oil vintage.

The thriving olive groves on the rolling foothills of the Simonsberg surpassed previous harvests both in terms of quality and quantity this year.

 Acclaimed for its award winning wines, TOKARA also enjoys recognition as one of South Africa’s top producers of world-class extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with all five of their EVOOs in the medal stakes at the 2020 SA Olive Awards.

For TOKARA’s olive oil master and operations manager, Gert van Dyk, making a fine olive oil is all about capturing the goodness of the fresh olive in the bottle, 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.”

Under his watch, the hand-picked olives are pressed within 24 hours of being harvested to safeguard their unique flavour profiles.

“The year 2020 certainly posed some serious challenges for the Olive Shed but it also produced some amazing records. The 20ha olive orchards yielded 211 tons of olives, smashing our wildest expectations. The small, versatile team at the Olive Shed was able to turn this massive crop into liquid gold,” says van Dyk.

In general the 2020 TOKARA EVOO has more delicate nuances on the palate than the previous vintage, but the nose remains fresh and herbaceous.

“With our 2020 product available on shelf we are now hard at work tending to the flowering olive trees to ensure that we grow the best possible fruit for our premium EVOO’s for the 2021 harvest season,” adds van Dyk. 

TOKARA’S olive oil journey began in 2000 when co-founder Anne-Marie Ferreira decided to produce single variety oils that would set them apart from the handful of South African olive oil producers at the time. TOKARA focuses primarily on Tuscan varieties, each selected for a distinctive character and flavour profile.

TOKARA EVOOs span the complete olive oil taste spectrum from mild to the more robust. Five cold pressed EVOOs – two single variety oils: the delicately flavoured Mission and the full-flavoured and spicy Frantoio, as well as two more intense multi-varietal blends, and an unfiltered blend make up the collection.

Frantoio, the most important olive variety in Italy, is the foundation of TOKARA’s full-flavoured blended olive oils. It’s a medium to intense oil with a nose of green grassy notes. The palate is sublime and well balanced between green and bitter notes, with a nutty aftertaste.

The Mission variety, which stems from America, is mild and gentle with a finely balanced grassy, herbaceous character and a walnut aftertaste, making it an all-round oil.

The Multi-Varietal EVOO and Premium EVOO are carefully blended to bring together the best characteristics of the various olive varieties. You’ll find notes of olive leaf, rocket, artichoke and a lovely herbaceous character.

TOKARA also has a refillable, unfiltered EVOO on tap. This unique artisanal multi-varietal blend redefines the meaning of untouched as it was specially selected for its purity and unbridled flavours while the oil was flowing from the olive press.

“We choose not to refine this special olive oil in order to retain its fresh and cloudy appeal and make it available on tap to visitors to our Deli,” says van Dyk, who recommends using the oil within a couple of months and then returning to TOKARA for a refill.

“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.

While TOKARA’s single cultivar or blended EVOOs are delicious simply tossed through crisp 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.”

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 by emailing winelounge@tokara.com or calling Tel: 021-8085900. For online purchases visit https://www.tokara.com/product/tokara-frantoio-extra-virgin-olive-oil/

More about TOKARA EVOOs

Throughout the classical wine-producing regions of the world, there is a natural association between the olive grove and the vineyard. At TOKARA this celebrated relationship continues to thrive.

The first four hectares of olive trees were planted on TOKARA’s steep slopes in 2000. Since then the orchards have grown to cover 22 hectares, planted predominantly with the classic cultivars of Frantoio, Coratina, Leccino and Mission.

Depending on the season, the harvest usually begins in mid-March, and continues until late-June. The cultivars usually ripen at different times starting with Leccino, followed by Frantoio, then Mission before ending with Coratina.

After the olives are harvested by hand they are brought into the TOKARA Olive Shed where they are gently cold pressed using centrifuge to release the oil from the fruit in the state-of-the-art Pieralisi extraction plant.  

After extraction, the oil is settled in steel tanks for two months, before being drawn off the sediment for polishing, a delicate filtration that removes any remaining sediment, and bottling. No chemicals are added, nor is there additional processing to extract the maximum oil from every olive. The unused pips and olive flesh are composted down and reused on the estate ensuring zero wastage.

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