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Tasting Olive Oils and Concha y Toro Wines from Chile at Vista Café

By November 19, 2012No Comments

I have an interest in olive oil because of the intertwined synergy between olives and grapes. Vines and olive trees seem to flourish together and the produce of both has so much to do with food and life. Many of the wines I taste come from producers who also make olive oil, whether on an artisan scale or as a commercial venture, so olive oils come my way frequently. I don’t profess any expertise in olive oils, and admit I have much to learn to be proficient in being able to appreciate it, let alone assess it in qualitative terms.

It was a little adventure to attend a promotion organised by the Embassy of Chile to taste a selection of premium Extra Virgin olive oils at the popular Vista Café on Oriental Parade, Wellington. The more comfortable and familiar drawcards were the food courses matched to the oils, and in fact which incorporated the oils, plus the selection of Concha y Toro wines that were to be on hand. On hand was Rachel Priestley, an Olives New Zealand judge, who independently rated the oils and had a hand in organising the tasting experience and the food matching exercise. Rachel is a highly regarded Wellington foodie with considerable hospitality experience, and her knowledge and confidence was clear to see. Her website is www.prodigal-daughter.com

Tasting through the nine different olive oils on show, there were strong differences between them. They ranged from lighter, more delicate and subtly aromatic styles to richer, deeper flavoured, piquant and more textural oils with greater interest. As with any comparison, there were oils I like more than others, and it was pleasing to note that the ones I liked were generally liked more by Rachel. As I understand it, as with grapes, vines and wines, the oils can and do reflect their origin and handling. This is a crucial point that must be understood by the market. We in New Zealand ask our export markets to enjoy the differences our wines offer in comparison with their own wines, and this is the mantra of all our produce that is exported. We should be magnanimous and look for and appreciate the differences produce from overseas. For me, with wine, it is relatively easy, and with olive oil, I’d like to think I’ll find it so, too. Talking to the other guests, I felt that the range of styles was easily discerned. Quality judgements were a little more difficult, and I felt a certain degree of parochialism present. Let’s hope this changes as there is more exposure to overseas foodstuffs (and wine!).
Judging Olive Oil
Rachel explained her judging process and protocols briefly, and I was amazed at how similar the oil judging methodology is to that of wine judging. Her first and overriding comment was on the weight and depth. Then a systematic look at the attributes of aroma, flavour, bitterness and pungency. To judge to the different grades of quality criteria clearly requires training and experience. Rachel then commented of the aromatic profile, followed by an overall summary, thus completing the judging process. Olive oils from four producers were promoted: Las Doscientas, Olisur, Don Rafael and Olave. No doubt they will be making a presence in the New Zealand market soon. Dale Keith, his wife Lexia and their team at Vista Café put up canapé courses with each oil being tasted, demonstrating the versatility of olive oil in general, as well as the skills of the kitchen in creating diverse foods. www.vistacafe.co.nz
The Concha y Toro Wines
Concha y Toro is no stranger to the New Zealand wine scene, with a strong presence over decades. Its international strength has been recognised by the influential ‘Drinks International’ magazine who has reported Concha y Toro ‘The World’s Most Admired Wine Brand’ in 2011 and 2012, as rated by their peers. I recently tasted through the range of the latest releases, and I was impressed. (Click here to see my reviews.)

On show at this event were four from the vast range: The ‘Casillero del Diablo’ Chardonnay 2011, a lighter, softly refreshing style, the new ‘Casillero del Diablo’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, vibrant and well-structured, the unique and complex ‘Marques Casa Concha’ Carmenere 2010 with its intriguing wild berry and herb amalgam, and the rather excellent ‘Marques Casa Concha’ Merlot 2010 showing great concentration and lavish, but balanced oaking. From my viewpoint, these are wines that offer a difference to our own wines and are well-worth seeking out to experience.. www.conchaytoro.com


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