Like freshly pressed juice, unfiltered olive oil is utterly delicious, yet, must be enjoyed as quickly as possible. The polyphenol levels of freshly milled olives are highest immediately after milling. However, due to the high olive particle and sediment content in the unfiltered oil, it is not a very shelf-stable product. This can be problematic because once the product degrades to a certain point it becomes rancid. It degrades at a much higher rate than filtered oil. Therefore, unfiltered olive oil should be consumed within 3 months or less of the milling date.
“Lockdown” has created a new generation of self-confessed foodies. People on a genuine quest to seek out the unusual; explore new flavours and a hunger to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation of “what makes something taste so good”. Just as we flocked to wine tastings, interactive olive oil tastings are now on-trend and considered to be a “bucket list” activity. If you know your olive oil and your vocabulary is punctuated with words like “pungency”, “thick and creamy”, “buttery”, “peppery”, “vegetal and “spicey”, you’ve certainly gained your stripes as a olive oil afficionado and a well-rounded foodie!
It is no surprise then, that the innovative team at Falcon’s Nest farm recently hosted an exclusive interactive “Unfiltered Olive Oil Tasting” for their Harvest 2022 in their fabulous new Tasting Room. Owners, Perry and Karen Chaloner, are known for their passionate hands-on approach to developing their Chaloner brand, so it was a real treat to have the people behind the brand, personally hosting the event. An opportunity for them to not only showcase their bespoke stylish Tasting Room, but to give their guests a unique “direct from the farm” tasting of their unfiltered oil – liquid gold at its most concentrated flavour and anti-oxidant composition.
Chaloner is one of the most diverse olive farms in South Africa as it has nine different olive cultivars. Five of these cultivars were hand-selected to be included in the Harvest 2022 Unfiltered Olive Oil Tasting. So you question, how do you taste olive oil? Not your everyday sensory experience but judging from the guest exclamations of “WOW”, “This is mind- blowing” to “I need this on all my food” and “I’m never using any other oil”, it was well worth the experience and a definite “foodie aha moment”!
This is the step by step journey to becoming an Olive Oil connoisseur.
Step one – each guest was invited to awaken their olfactory senses.
Aroma bowls were passed around for each person to take a deep inhalation and try and determine what they smelt in the bowl (without sneaking a peek inside). They then had to write down their guesses; once all the covered aroma bowls had been passed around, the secret ingredients were revealed. This gave an indication as to just how sensitive their senses were. Some people clearly needed to work on their olfactory sensory indicators!!
Step two was a lesson in the “art of tasting”.
Olive oil is poured into an Olive Oil Tasting Glass and covered with a watch glass. The glass can be held to warm it, as heat brings out the flavour and aroma of the oil. To smell the oil, the glass is held at arm’s length, and the lid removed. Inhaling deeply, while bringing the glass nearer to the nose, one can sense the intensity of the oil – as the further away it can be smelt, the more intense it is. Once the aroma profile of the oil has been noted, one takes a small sip and swirls the oil around the mouth. Air is then drawn in through the lips, three times in quick succession, to spray the oil all over the entire palate, releasing the volatile gases to engage the olfactory senses in the tasting experience. Our guests were each given an Olive Oil scorecard to write down the individual flavours that they picked up in each oil; as well as the style of the oil and its mouthfeel. Each olive oil cultivar was tasted this way and discussed in turn, before progressing onto the next one.
Step 3: The subtle art of blending.
Just like wine making or whiskey blending, the art of the Oil Blender in understanding the many different flavours in olive oil is like the work of a composer: Not only do you need to completely understand the musical characteristics of every instrument, but you must also understand how to combine them to build an unforgettable, spellbinding symphony.
Each guest had the opportunity to blend their own olive oil, based on their own taste preference. Some may prefer fruitier oil, while others a more delicate – adding the ratio of cultivars as they want the final blend to be in flavour, aroma and mouthfeel. Once the blend was done, the liquid gold was poured into an Italian olive oil bottle, to be taken home and enjoyed over the next couple months.
So did our guests make beautiful music?
We are not sure that our Master Blender Perry has any serious competition just yet, but we are sure our guests will certainly be competing for the coveted title in the near future, armed with the knowledge they gained and the opportunity to sample limited unfiltered olive oil in such a magnificent setting underneath the Stellenbosch Mountains.
So if you are looking to become the next music maker in the world of olive oil, make sure you book for you and a group of 6 – eleven friends to each create your own symphony.