01 Sep

Kiwi olive oils pip the world

By Tania Katterns,

New Zealand olive oil makers are pipping the world’s elite, with Wairarapa growers among those strengthening their foothold in the international market.

Ruakokoputuna Olives estate, near Martinborough, won two gold medals at the Los Angeles County Fair Olive Oils of the World competition, one of the industry’s biggest and most prestigious events. The Wairarapa estate was joined by Northland’s Te Arai Olive Estate, Marlborough’s Serendipity, Nelson’s Oriwa, Mahana and Moutere Grove and Waiheke’s Kennedy Point in gold and silver medal-winning form.

New Zealand had 12 oils among the 386 from 19 countries entered in the international section, and all 12 were winners – 11 golds and a silver.

Ruakokoputuna, a fledgling industry for Wellington photographer Mike Wilkinson and partner Wendy Fisher, has exceeded expectations.

“It was beyond our dreams really, considering the grove is only six years old and only went commercial two years ago,” Mr Wilkinson said.

“What will it be like when the trees mature and we all get the hang of this thing?”

The couple bought eight hectares of mainly glacial terrace land in 1999 to establish their 2000 trees. Production is still small-scale, with 500 litres this season, and an estimated 1000 litres next year, till the trees mature.

The past season was hampered by bad weather, Mr Wilkinson said.

“Despite the odd setback, New Zealand olive growers and oil makers are producing this outstanding product which is just cleaning up the world.

“Only 10 per cent of the famed Italian oils are as good as 100 per cent of the oils we produce in New Zealand.”

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