Striking olive oil gold

04 Jan, 2014 03:00 AM
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Peter and Helen Wright, Grassy Spur Olives, Inverloch, Victoria with their trophies from last year’s prestigious Australian Olive Association Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Table Olives awards where they Best in Class I Award and the Best EVOO of Show.
Peter and Helen Wright, Grassy Spur Olives, Inverloch, Victoria with their trophies from last year’s prestigious Australian Olive Association Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Table Olives awards where they Best in Class I Award and the Best EVOO of Show.

VICTORIAN boutique olive growers Peter and Helen Wright will remember 2013 for three reasons - record production, superb quality and national acclaim.

The couple - Peter, an Information Technology consultant, and Helen, a retired nursing sister - achieved this year what other growers only dream about.

In 2004 and yearning for a tree change from the hustle and bustle of Inverloch, southeast of Melbourne, they purchased a 20-acre block of land on top of a hill overlooking the Tarwin River valley, at Stony Creek, South Gippsland.

It was bare, apart from three Cyprus trees and a small dam, much like their knowledge of what they were about to embark on - olive growing.

"We knew nothing," Helen said. "So, we read and we read…we read everything we could get our hands on about olives, and we asked as many questions as we could.

"It was a huge learning curve."

In April 2005, Peter and Helen planted two groves of 800 olive trees, Picholine, Coratina, Frantoio and Picual, and celebrated like they had won the lotto when their first commercial crop of 300kg was harvested three years later.

Since that milestone crop, the Wrights have expanded the groves to 1500 trees of nine varieties, planted 84 truffle inoculated Oak trees in a separate grove, planted hundreds of native trees and introduced beehives into the grove to enhance pollination.

Production at Grassy Spur Olives this year increased four-fold, with 12 tonnes harvested in June and July, enough to produce 6000 250ml bottles of olive oil.

Helen attributes the grove's record production to their soil and tree management practices.

"We look after our trees very well," Helen said. "We have been using a wonderful organic soil conditioner called Bactivate for three years now and the accumulative effect on the soil is fantastic.

"The trees have never looked so good.

"We look after our trees and they repay us."

The quality of this year's crop was second to none. Where it normally takes two to three months for the processed oil to "settle" before being bottled, this year's Grassy Spur crop was "clean" in a month.

But when it comes to knowing "you've made it", there's no stronger indicator than peer recognition.

In the case of the olive industry, it’s the prestigious the Australian Olive Association Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Table Olives awards which are held as part of the industry's national conference.

A total of 215 entries were received from 107 exhibitors at this year's awards held in Tasmania in early October.

Grassy Spur Olives won three Gold Awards in Class I - single estate grown with a minimum of 200 litres produced - for their Picual, Coratina and Frantoio varieties.

Grassy Spur's Picual Oil went on to win the Best in Class I Award, but the real triumph came when it was named the Best EVOO of Show, holding out an entry from Cobram Estate, Australia's leading olive oil producer in a blind tasting.

"We were absolutely shocked," Helen said.

"We were thrilled and felt it was all worth it, the hard work we had put in and how we look after and care for the property.

"It was a very sweet moment.”

Naturally, the next step for Grassy Spur Olives is to tackle the international stage, a view shared by internationally renowned judge, Richard Gawel, who led the judging panel.

"Given my experience in international competitions, I would suggest that the best oils here would easily hold their own in international line-ups," he said.

Logistics may make it difficult for Grassy Spur to enter the international awards as the awards are held months after the Wright's annual harvest.

While they deliberate their debut on the international stage, the Wrights are still buzzing on cloud nine and content to continue to nurture the grove that is giving so much back to them.

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READER COMMENTS

Peter McFarlane
6/01/2014 3:28:49 PM

Congratulations to Grassy Spur Olives which is also a signatory to AOA's Code of Practice - Always look for the Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Certification Trade Mark

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COMMENTS

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Sorry did i get it wrong..? Rankins Springs is still open..?!
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No doubt a few frosted Freddies out there who will wish they had taken a closer look at the AGC
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Matthew, I was wondering if you had followed up this story with the farmer after the whole