Neudorf Olives, Upper Moutere Nelson

Despite my best intentions, it’s almost a year since I last wrote, and harvest time is almost upon us. I know that I won’t get near the computer during the harvest / pressing period, so am making the most of the lull before the storm! I was delighted to see that all the cafes / restaurants we supply have received awards in the 2012 Wild Tomato Awards. What a great result and well deserved – many congratulations to Devilles, Mint Dining Room and The Boatshed. Not surprising really, as we only approach restaurants with the oil, that we would be proud to be associated with and enjoy eating at, we rarely eat out (other than at friends) so it needs to be special when we do! Talking of eating out… Mint Dining Room have another of their incredible degustation dinners coming up, but we won’t be able to make it this time as it’s during our harvest. I will no doubt be by the press, freezing cold and grateful for a bowl of soup or a plate of macaroni cheese instead of tucking into a selection of tasty morsels, washed down with fine wines – too sad really!

I now have a stall at the Nelson Farmers’ Market (held at Fashion Island every Wednesday, 11am – 4pm.) It’s been good to meet old and new customers, allow people to sample our oils and taste the difference between fresh and ‘not so fresh’ extra virgin olive oils. We have also started oil sales on the property, for those who want an outing and to see the beautiful environment that the olives grow in, the press and storage and bottling systems.

There’s been some good publicity about the range of ‘so called’ extra virgin olive oils recently. Radio NZ and Fair Go have both aired programs this year looking into the quality of extra virgin olive oils available in NZ. The results came as no surprise to those of us in the industry, but I think much of the public were shocked. None of the imported oils passed the stringent tests undertaken by Fair Go, all of them were considered rancid. Many New Zealanders are so used to rancid oil , that they think this is normal. Little did they know that there were few if any health benefits in that bottle of Italian or Spanish oil. It’s also interesting to note that NZ has some of the highest standards for what qualifies as extra virgin olive oil, more so than the International Olive Council. We consistently come well within the NZ parameters, so I wonder what is happening to the oil that fails the NZ tests. It’s all about the quality of the fruit prior to pressing, the interval between between harvesting and pressing, the pressing itself and then the storage of the oil and bottling. Heat, light and exposure to air are all bad news when it comes to storing that precious substance, whether it’s in our tanks or your bottle. I am reading a fascinating book, written by Tom Mueller, called Extra Virginity, the Sublime and Scandalous World of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. He was interviewed in both the Radio NZ and the Fair Go programs and came across as both interesting and well informed.

Sadly, our tractor ‘died’ last week, so I have been immersed in the world of tractor dealers – various horsepowers, hydraulics, tyre sizes, gear ratios… all very important when you have to take into consideration the steepness of our land and the width of the rows between olive trees. If only my friends from my previous life of tennis / croquet outings, morning coffee and afternoon teas could see me now! I’m pleased to report that I think I’ve found the perfect second hand tractor in the North Island to add to our family and am hoping she’ll arrive next week, in plenty of time for us to get to know her before harvest!

That’s enough for now. I felt I had to make up for my lack of earlier communications, so I hope I haven’t bored you with the above epistle! Until next time…

Neudorf Olives, Upper Moutere Nelson