The South African olive industry is mainly concentrated in the Cape Winelands in the Western Cape Province in South Africa, with its typically Mediterranean climate. The most used olive cultivars used to make EVOO in South Africa include Leccino (produces an oil with soft, subtle herbaceous flavours), Frantoio (a typical Tuscan varietal, with strong green overtones), Coratina (can produce a rather bitter oil), Favolosa (produces an intensely fruity oil) and Mission (a table olive which can be used to produce smooth delicate fruity oils, often contributing to roundness in a blend). Many producers choose to blend different cultivars and batches to maintain a more consistent product every year, while others offer separate varietals which display differing characteristics with each harvest.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil is accepted as being the best quality oil available and as such demands the highest retail price. For a premium price, the consumer should be guaranteed a product of commensurate quality.
Virgin and Extra Virgin Olive Oil refer to oils from the olive that are completely natural and unrefined. If the producer has not labelled olive oil as “virgin” or “extra virgin”, one can assume the oil to be refined or to contain a proportion of refined olive oil. These blends usually lack the health, chemical and aromatic characteristics of virgin and extra virgin olive oils, and are usually sold as Pure Olive Oil, Olive Oil or Light Olive Oil.
In the words of internationaloliveoil.org, “Olive oil is oil obtained solely from the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea L.) to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents or re-esterification processes and of any mixture with oils of other kinds. Virgin olive oil fit for consumption as it is which has a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams, and the other characteristics of which correspond to those fixed for this category in the IOC standard (COI/T.15/NC No 3).”
SA Olive, an association representing the interests of the South African olive industry, with members including olive growers, olive oil producers, table olive producers, tree nurseries and olive importers, defines extra virgin olive oil as follows: “EVOO can be categorized according to three styles – those which are intensely fruity, those of medium intensity and the more delicate oils. The style of EVOO is largely influenced by the specific cultivar or blend of cultivars used, maturity of the fruit, area of origin, terroir and seasonal climatic conditions. Of the more than 200 olive cultivars grown around the world, there are at least 20 different cultivars used to make olive oil in South Africa. By labelling a product as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the producer has to comply with the following requirements: The source/origin, manufacturer’s address (traceability), the harvest date and/or expiry date and lot and/or batch number, volumetric content (which is a legal requirement, but not always complied to), a nutritional table with the relevant information is compulsory on the back label, the oil has a free acidity level of LESS than 0.8% and a peroxide value LESS than 20, (complying to international standards), that the oil has been cold extracted, which means that no additional heat is used to extract the oil, thus the oil retains all its wonderful natural aromas, flavour, taste and antioxidants.