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Council olive oil wins gold medal

17 May 2005

Council olive oil wins gold medal in international competition

The streets of Mt Victoria are now lined in gold thanks to the fruits of the city’s olive trees.

“Wellington City Council’s Suprema a Situ (Wellington’s motto of “Supreme in Location”) extra virgin olive oil has won a gold medal at the biggest and one of the most prestigious international olive oil competitions at the L.A. County Fair, California.

“It’s absolutely fantastic news for Wellington and we are delighted. We knew this olive oil was good and this medal confirms that belief,” said Mayor Kerry Prendergast.

Of the 26 extra virgin olive oil New Zealand entries, nine were awarded gold medals and 11 silver medals. There were 366 entries from countries such as Italy, Greece and Spain.

Wellington’s olive oil is harvested from French Verdale olive trees planted in Mount Victoria in the 1980s. The first vintage was harvested in 2002 after Graeme Harris, of Kapiti Olives Ltd, approached the Council with a plan to produce premium olive oil. He has described the 2004 vintage as “full-bodied, herbaceous, with a peppery finish” and one of the best olive oils he has tasted. He said that it is a major achievement to win a gold medal against such strong global competition.

New Zealand’s only internationally accredited olive oil judge Margaret Edwards agrees. She was one of the world’s top judges at the L.A. County Fair this year and said that, although Wellington’s olive oil was judged in the small class of Verdales olive oil, it still had to gain its points to gold by a very strict set of criteria.

With 350 olive trees in her olive grove on Waiheke Island, Margaret has reserved space for cuttings from Wellington’s Verdales trees, so impressed was she by their quality. She described the oil, which is now almost a year old, as “delicate to medium with interesting fruit flavours”, ideal for using with fish or chicken, or as a dipping oil. Because the trees are now about 20 years old, the oil they produce is complex and full of flavour, she said. “It’s very impressive, as ideally they need hotter and drier conditions.”

Mayor Prendergast said that the oil has received plaudits from culinary luminaries such as the Editor of Dish Catherine Bell, who said that it was an oil Wellington city should be very proud of.

“This whole project was done on a shoestring, with Council staff helping pick the olives, selecting the name, and designing the very elegant labels and packaging. That, of course, makes this medal an even more amazing achievement.”

Only 72 bottles of the 2004 Suprema a Situ olive oil have been produced and none is available for public sale. They are sent to influential people involved in the food media and to local, national and international media.

“The New Zealand embassy in Washington was so impressed that they’ve requested a regular supply to use as gifts. Weather permitting, we have agreed,” Mayor Prendergast said.


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