TOKARA enjoys wide acclaim as a top producer of world-class extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), and harvest time is when the new season’s golden bounty from the rolling olive groves reveals itself.
The olive harvest, stretching from mid-March well into June, is a busy time for olive oil master and operations manager, Gert van Dyk, who gently extracts the liquid gold from the diverse selection of olive varieties as they begin to ripen and unlock their flavours one after the other.
“The 2020 harvest is looking great with good volumes and exceptional quality. The polyphenols, powerful antioxidants associated with the characteristic burning sensation of a good olive oil, are amazing,” explains Van Dyk.
Under his watch, the hand-picked olives are pressed in Tokara’s olive shed within 24 hours of being harvested to safeguard their unique flavour profiles.
Tokara, situated on the crest of the Helshoogte Pass outside Stellenbosch, focuses primarily on Tuscan varieties, each selected for a distinctive character and flavour profile, from mild to more robust. Four cold pressed EVOOs – two single varietal oils, spicy Frantoio and the delicately flavoured Mission, as well as two more intense multi-varietal blends make up the collection. Frantoio, the most important olive variety in Italy, is the foundation of Tokara’s full-flavoured blended olive oils.
“Our Frantoio looks very promising this year with lots of nutty notes and softer almond flavours,” adds Van Dyk.
Last year the Multi-Varietal, Tokara’s top performer in 2019 with a Gold medal from the SA Olive Awards, did very well due to the good balance between bitter, fruity and green flavours. Best described as a persistent oil that lingers on the palate, Van Dyk would like to strive for this again this year.
In addition to Tokara’s regular range of olive oils, unfiltered EVOO from the 2020 vintage in the style of its Premium Blend, will be available on tap at the Tokara Deli from September.
More about Tokara extra virgin olive oils
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 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.
The definition of “extra virgin” oil is associated with low levels of natural free acidity, achieved from the first cold pressing of the olives.