Among the many accolades it’s received to date, local olive-oil brand Rio Largo, recently won an international award for its artwork. H&G got the lowdown from owner and producer Brenda Wilkinson about Rio Largo and olive-oil.
Why should South Africans be buying local rather than imported olive-oils?
Would you buy an imported wine over a good local product? The number of awards won internationally by South African producers each year proves that we compete with the best-of-the-best worldwide. There is a flourishing olive-oil industry with about 76 producers belonging to the SA Olive Association which is strictly governed to protect our consumers from all the fraudulent oils that are shipped here. At Rio Largo, we have the SA Olive Certificate of Compliance on each bottle which ensures the consumer of a taste profile and a chemical analysis of the oil certifying that it is extra virgin.
What information should consumers be looking for on the labels of olive-oils when shopping for the right product?
Olive-oil, unlike wine, is a fresh product and should be embraced as soon as it is processed. Look for the sticker of compliance from our SA Olive Association which denotes a chemical and taste compliancy as well as the year of harvest. However if there is no CTC sticker, it is best to check where and when it is produced rather than packaged, as oils that are not produced and bottled on the same estate are often of bad quality. Also watch for olive-oils that are decanted from large containers as it is often difficult to keep these containers clean and the temptation is to keep topping up the old oil up with newer oil.
Remember: Local is better – quality approved, less travelled and bought with the date of harvest clearly marked.
Does the packaging of olive-oil relate to, or make a difference in the quality of olive-oil?
Olive-oil is best when fresh as oxidation happens naturally over time and is exacerbated by exposure to heat and light, so dark glass bottles are the best way to buy your olive-oil. At Rio Largo, we package our award winning olive-oil in decanters on tap. The oil is vacuum packed in a plastic foil-covered bag that is non-breathable. It is then inserted into a cardboard tube which shuts out light. The oil cannot oxidise even when opened and in use. Our own trials show that this method of packaging conserves freshness far better than any glass bottle. However, if you do favour bottles ensure that a dark-coloured bottle is used, with a screw cap rather than a breathable cork. I would not recommend buying extra virgin olive-oil packed in PET bottles or clear glass.
Is olive oil really as healthy as they say?
The health benefits are enormous and science continues to find new reasons why extra virgin olive-oil should form the backbone of everyone’s daily diet. Olive-oil has shown to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes, certain cancers as well as generally aiding well-being. It also has benefits on the beauty side – making fabulous natural soaps and balm too, and is a great cleanser, toner and moisturiser.
How much is too much? Or should we be drizzling over our food with abandon?
Use it and enjoy it with abandon – as long as it’s the real deal.
Should we be cooking with olive-oil too?
Yes – all producers use it in their cooking. It adds fabulous flavour and is far healthier. Olive-oil has been around since biblical times, used in cooking, lighting our lives in more ways than we can imagine.
Rio Largo has been widely recognised as one of the best olive-oils being produced in SA – please tell us about some of your recent awards?
We are very proud of our awards, being aware that we have been consistently winning awards since 2010 and as such are rated as one of South Africa’s finest olive-oils. This year, 2016, we won ‘Best in class’ in New York this year. We also won gold in Los Angeles, USA, Tokyo and Japan; bronze in Sol D’Oro, Italy and triple gold in our South African Awards. We also scored 96% in the Flos Olei Guide to Olive-Oils Around the World which positions us in the top 70 producers, dominated by Italy, on the world stage.
What interesting new products and projects are you working on?
We are working with the Rhino Foundation with our olive-oils sold in the Rhino designed tubes. We have various designs to share and a percentage of the profits go to help Save Our Rhino. We proudly helped a Rhino Orphanage to buy a water tank during last year’s drought.
We also have a great deal of fun, especially at this time of the year, designing personalised labels of our tubes to share with corporates.
We have worked closely with Shannon du Toit for many years and she has designed all our packaging for us – both our decanters and bottle labels as well as brochures, posters and adverts. Nikki Lange has taken on Rio Largo personalised labels as part of an initiative to help fund two young nephews left in her care when their mother passed away suddenly.
We are also working together with Zikhona Tefu from O’live Handmade Soaps to create special Rio Largo soaps and Sarah Taylor from Bee Balmy who makes our special Rio Largo Balm for us! Two wonderful products – every home should be using them, whatever your age.
Find out more about Rio Largo and their products at riolargo.co.za.