Olive oil—it may never replace butter entirely, but it’s a heckin’ good alternative. But how do you actually make the stuff? Virgin...extra virgin. What does it all mean? We're not qualified olive oil sommeliers (a real job, look it up), but we CAN tell you extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is the highest quality olive oil you can get. It's produced by cold-pressing the olives, which means no chemicals, a more refined product, and an extremely dipp-able flavour.
And not to brag or anything, but Victoria has some of the best extra virgin olive oil going around, and we’ve gathered just a handful of them. These are some of the best olive oils in the state.
Before anything, we have to mention how punny Gooramadda’s dressing range is. There’s the punchy Italian Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil (little black) Frock…get it? Totally badass, Gooramadda Olives are internationally recognised for having some of the best olive and extra virgin olive oils in the world. Just this year they took out the People’s Choice Award for Olive Producers in North East Victoria and the silver medal at the 2016 New York International Olive Oil Show.
Hailing from the Rutherglen Wine Region, on the banks of the Murray River, Gooramadda Olives’ other products also include a range of table olives, fermented in barrels for at least a year. So whether it’s a jar of the good stuff or a bottle of high-quality EVOO, Gooramadda Olives has you covered. Personally, we're fans of the Lemon & Lime Olive Oil with Verjuice—it had a kicky freshness that’s perfect for the warmer weather.
Rich Glen Olive Oil
OK, so we totally ignored the “three chilli” indication on the label and underestimated just how much of a kick Rich Glen’s new Argumato Fiery Chilli Olive Oil would have. But we can confirm it was totally worth it. Chock-a-block full of bold flavours, Rich Glen’s flavoured oils vary from Blood Orange and Citrus Zest to exquisite Butter Truffle. The traditional range showcase natural and 100% Australian extra virgin olive oil. We highly recommend their Yarrawonga Gold Premium extra virgin olive oil drizzled over anything. With Thai mango salad season coming, you better add a dash of that Argumato chilli olive oil on top. Or, for a complete 180-degrees turn, try their range of body oil products for babies, teens, guys and gals.
Mount Zero Olives
With olive trees dating back to the 1930s, it’s safe to say Western Victoria’s Mount Zero Olives are the wisest on the block. But combine that with their ethical bio-dynamic methods, and you've got the best of old and new. From Mount Zero, you can expect a blend of two flavour profiles in their extra virgin olive oil. There’s the Frantoio which gives a subtle hint of tropical fruit, and the Manzanilla for a touch of earthiness. With their EVOO being used in the kitchens of Attica, Domaine Chandon, Brae, and Collins Quarter (among many more) you can bet Mount Zero has some of the best quality EVOO in the country.
Squeaky Gate Growers Co.
Totally marvellous, Squeaky Gate is an all-Australian, all-real extra virgin olive oil. The guys behind Squeaky Gate believe in the good things in life, without all the fancy-pants distractions. They follow the Australian olive harvest from grower to grower, bringing you the pick of the crop, fresh and flavoursome, straight from the farm gate. They have three olive oils up for grabs: The Mild One, The All Rounder, and The Strong One (the latter is popular with good ol’ hearty cooking). We recommend The All Rounder Extra Virgin Olive Oil, created especially for pastas, the salad fam, and white meats. It’s a great blend, right in the middle of mild and strong, fruity and bitter.
With a grove of 25,000 trees on the Cobram Estate, Cockatoo Grove is an olive oil farm focused on organics. This means no synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms. The result is totally and certifiably organic, and you’ll know it when you pop the lid and have a taste. There's a distinctive fruity and bitter flavour running through their olive oils.
Cockatoo Grove’s finest is their premium Mid-Night Olive Oil, and can we just say it has some damn fine sexy packaging. Organically grown Frantolo olives are picked during the cool nights so the olives are kept naturally cool. Then, the olives are washed, cold-pressed, and delicately processed at low temperatures for that finishing hit of freshness. Cockatoo Grove’s team recommend drizzling the oil over pasta, salads, and seafood or as a dipping treat with some sourdough bread.
Grampians Olive Co.
Completely family-owned and operated, Grampians Olive Co. is one of Australia’s oldest olive groves and home to the legendary ‘Toscana’ Olive Plantation. With a long line of history and awards, they’ve cemented their place as a leading organic and sustainable olive oil producer. Australian Golden Olive Awards presented these guys with the 2017 trophy for the Best Oil From Heritage Trees. The trees rely on natural rainfall to nourish them with zero additives. And after sampling their organic Olio Nuovo extra virgin olive oil, we conclude there must be something magical in the rain ‘cos it was just plain delicious. It combined a smooth texture with rich fruity and fresh olive flavours that kept us coming back for second and third dips.
Moro Olive Oil
It’s a staple brand in many kitchens nationwide, reminiscent of boisterous family dinners and food comas. Founded in 1845, Moro is Australia’s number one brand of olive oil, but even though it’s literally been centuries, Moro is still passionate about two things: family and good quality olive oil. The staple classic is Moro’s Primero Extra Virgin Olive Oil, produced from Spanish olives. But recently Moro has teamed up with Melbourne’s iconic MoVida to produce a unique extra virgin olive oil, combining rare Picudo and Arbequina olives. And you can bet it’s got a spicy tang to it, it is MoVida after all. Chef and owner, Frank Camorra encourages you to enjoy it with just about everything, from paella to chocolate.
Cape Schanck Olive Estate
Family owned and managed, Cape Schanck is another dominating force in the olive oil scene. With multiple national and international awards under their belt, you know they're the real deal. Located on the Mornington Peninsula, the olive grove is dedicated to the finest quality of extra virgin olive oil and wine. Varities of hand-picked olives include the French Picholine, the Spanish Picual, and three Italian bombshells; Frantoio, Leccino, and Corantina. The last of which comes recommended and adorned with awards from the New York International Olive Oil Competition and the Los Angeles International EVOO comp. Give it a dip for a peppery and bitter pang coupled with a little flavoursome surprise.
Another grove on the Mornington Peninsula, L'Uliveto Verde is a 50 acre olive grove producing a mixture of Frantoio, Picual, and Leccino. Hand-picked and cold-pressed within three hours for the ultimate freshness, L'Uliveto Verde's olive oil deliver wholesome flavours with just enough of a bitter hit. Alike many in the business, the olives are harvested chemically-free with a real concentration on organic farming and techniques. Their latest of the season, the 2017 Extra Virgin Olive Oil won this year's New York International Gold Award. We recommend it drizzled over salads...or if you're a total EVOO addict, dip that sourdough into it for EVOO glory.
Kyneton Olive Oil
On Victoria's Bylands Estate is the family owned Kyneton Olive Oil, bursting with flavou, thanks to a few Sicilian secrets regarding cold-pressed olive oil. The Kyneton team are as serious as it gets when it comes to olive oil, sometimes reblending oils for the perfect texture, quality, and flavour. Peek into their store and you'll find a range of gourmet blends and the ultimate Agrumato evoo infused with flavours like rosemary, ginger, garlic, chilli and basil. Perfectly suited for hearty meals, it's a definite must this Christmas. The Kyneton team recommend using their basil infused evoo to make a hot plate of gnocchi with peas and baby spinach, topped off with lots of parmesan and lemon. We don't need much convincing.
Victorian Olive Groves
Celebrating ten years in the olive oil business, Victorian Olive Groves (VOG) produce all things olive with premium evoo and olive-related products, everything from soap to vinegars. At the heart of their production is an environmentally friendly approach, with methods specifically created to be sustainable. They're also proud supporters of the Slow Food Movement, promoting a healthy food production in regional areas. Expect evoo flavours to tickle with peppery and fruity bursts, while their Aussie red wine and brown and white vinegars cause a riot on the palate. Try the aromatic Early Harvest Frantoio for a kick of tangy olive favour.
Producing three mega stars in the evoo world, you may know Chapman Hill for their stand-out Frantoio, Leccino, and WA's New Norcia varietal evoo blends. Calling the northern slopes of the Great Dividing Range home, Chapman Hill are dedicated to delivering high-quality extra virgin olive oil of Italian and Australian origin. The evoo team point their success to their location on the tall slopes of Chapman Hill. Rising to a staggering 300 metres, the olive grove takes full advantage of warm summer days and cold winter ones that translate into bold and lasting flavours. We'd recommend their New Norcia blend for something a little different. Expect full, earthy flavours you'd only get downunder.
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Image credit: Gabrielle Bjorklund