Purple pestos and juicy tapenades, plump peppery green giants, tangy calamatas with garlic and citrus… I don’t know about you, but olives seriously turn me on.  And it just so happens that this year’s Cheese Festival will be hosting an ‘Olive Experience’, showcasing all of the many exciting things into which the humble olive can be made.

Now, in my opinion, if there’s one thing that goes really well with cheese (besides wine, of course), it’s olives, and plenty of ’em. So, it seems that not only will I be on the hunt for the best natural and organic cheeses at this year’s event, I will also be spending some quality time getting up close and personal with as many varieties of olive as I can possibly (safely) try in one day.

And since there’s nothing like a little antici…….. pation, I’ve taken a look at the list of exhibitors to see what’s on the cards.  These are the highlights, as I see them.

Morgenster Estate
Location: Morgenster Estate, Somerset West.
What they make: Morgenster makes all kinds of olive products – everything from the olives themselves to extra virgin olive oil and olive pastes.
Their olive farm was named “Mill of the Year (2007)”, the highest credential for olive producers.

Location: Northern foothills of the Langeberg mountain range on the R62 tourist route (Montagu).
What they make: Two styles of olives: black table olives of the Mission variety in either Natural or Chili/Garlic flavoured.
The X-factor:
Limited availability!  This year marks their first harvest, and they do things the old-fashioned way – no quick fix methods. Because of this, supply is limited and (they say), the taste is excellent and ‘sought after in the connoisseur market’.  I look forward to finding out for myself!

Groote Vallei
Location: 4kms outside Tulbagh just off the R46.
What they make: Table olives and olive oil.
The X-factor:
This year’s crop was hand picked and pressed within 24 hours of picking. Picking was done over the course of a month so that only the best olives went into producing the oil.

Hidden Valley Wines
Location: Stellenbosch
Hidden Valley Farm has planted 4000 olive trees, a decision which was driven by intuition and passion for the tree and the versatility of its fruits.
The fertile soils on the Hidden Valley Farm made a perfect home for these trees and they grew vigorously. A fusion of table and oil varieties now make up the beautiful silver textured environment around the impressive stone wall of the wine cellar.
What they make:
The Olive processing at Hidden Valley includes oil, table olives and Tapenade and they are exploring (‘with excitement’) the many alternative and interesting products into which an olive can be turned.
The X-factor:
These guys are eco-friendly, farming ‘in accordance with ecologically sensitive farming practices’: “The gardens on the Hidden Valley Farm have been created with care and sensitivity for the environment. The indigenous wild olive forests in the valley inspired the creation of an indigenous and environmentally sensitive landscape.All exotic and alien plants were removed and a totally organic philosophy now encourages total recycling of all plant materials.”
What’s more, we plebs can explore it for ourselves – a nature trail has been laid that allows visitors to experience the natural beauty of the farm.

Karoo Olives
Location: Renosterkop Farm, just outside Beaufort West.
What they make: Among the olive products they produce are olive oil, pickled olives and olive paste.

The X-factor:Renosterkop Farm is one of the four original olive farms in South Africa (first trees planted in 1967), and is also the oldest olive farm in Beaufort West.

Hillcrest Estate

Location: Tygerberg Hills (Durbanville ward).
What they make: Green and black table olives, and extra virgin olive oil.  More recently processed olive products such as tapenade, pestos and a Mediterranean olive mix have been included in the product range.
The X-factor:
All production is done on the farm, from harvesting to bottling.  And, the position of the orchard 300 meters above sea level gives the olives a “specific rich, tangy taste” and makes the extra virgin olive oil distinctively “peppery”.

Wereldsgeluk Olywe
Wêreldsgeluk Olive Estate, situated in the foothills of the Winterhoek mountain range near Porterville.
What they make:
Cold-pressed olive oil from 7 cultivars.
Introduction of a new new Extra Virgin Olive Oil, made on the estate.

Other olive producers at the Olive Experience

The SA Cheese Festival runs from 24-27 April 2010.

Times: Saturday to Monday 10:00 to 18:00, Tuesday 10:00 to 17:00

Tickets: R110 pp for Saturday and Sunday and R90 pp for Monday and Tuesday. This entitles you to a shopping bag, festival programme, tastings and inspirational demonstrations by some of South Africa’s top food icons.

  • Remember, NO TICKET SALES at the gates!
  • A limited number of tickets are on sale at Computicket and in Checkers stores.
  • Senior citizens discount: R70 pp for the duration of the festival.
  • FREE entry for children 12 years and under.
  • Wine tasting glasses @ R10 each on sale at the gates.

Website: www.cheesefestival.co.za


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