Kāpiti and Wairarapa olive oil makers swept the annual New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil Awards last week, winning all of the five major awards for Olive Oil Excellence.
Kāpiti Olives won Best in Show for their Kāpiti Frantoio Blend with owners David and Helen Walshaw no stranger to the awards.
They have consistently won gold at the top awards, have previously won Best in Show at the awards on two occasions, and have also been awarded gold at the prestigious New York International Olive Oil Competition last year.
Their commercial-sized grove with 2300 trees is one of the very few olive groves in New Zealand that supplies supermarkets as well as boutique markets and specialist food stores.
"We were very delighted to receive the Best in Show award again, especially given the large number of gold medal-winning oils of such high quality around the lower North Island this year," Helen said.
"We are also delighted as our Frantoio blend is the oil that's available in the major supermarkets and specialty stores around the country.
"It is also our most popular seller generally."
Helen describes the Frantoio blend as vibrant, fresh and salady, with a warm peppery finish.
"It's an interesting and a well-balanced oil, making it ideal for all salads, pasta dishes, vegetables, fish and chicken meals - and perfect too just as a dipping oil."
Totara Tunnel Olives also won one of the major awards, Reserve Best Boutique.
Totara Tunnel is a boutique grove of around 550 trees located on Ōtaki Gorge Rd and owned by Brent Meldrum and Sally Murrey.
"We were absolutely stoked to win best Reserve Best Boutique," Sally said.
"We've been tapping on the door for a while, winning best in class awards but we've never won a major.
"So to win that was really great, it's exciting."
Entering oils into the awards for the last four years and winning gold every year shows Sally and Brent they are producing consistently good olives.
"The olives love the soil where we are on Ōtaki Gorge Rd, it's a really good spot for olives.
"They get a nice breeze off the Tararua Ranges and that helps dry out the olives each morning and they just seem to like the soil there.
"It's consistently a really good spot."
Olives NZ spokeswoman Gayle Sheridan said the Kāpiti and Wairarapa climate and soil contribute to its success, both in New Zealand and on the world stage.
"New Zealand has had a reputation for producing outstanding Extra Virgin Olive Oil that can compete at the highest standard internationally.
"Despite challenging growing conditions with our maritime climate, our growers have adopted proactive grove management strategies that have enabled our olive oils to just get better and better every year.
"We were pretty excited about this year's harvest and to have this recognised with a record number of Gold medals awarded is fantastic," Gayle Sheridan said.
There were also a record 165 entries.
Head judge Charlotte Connoley said the quality of the award entries was superb and shows what great shape the New Zealand olive industry is in.
"The achievement of 81 gold medals and 72 silver medals out of a record entry of 165 olive oils was an outstanding achievement for the industry.
"The harmony and complexity of the oils were of a high standard across the single varietal entries as well as the blends — the skill of those crafting the oils is immense to ensure a positive experience for those consuming these extra virgin olive oils."
The judging process was carried out during level 4 and 3 alert levels for Auckland and level 2 elsewhere in New Zealand.
This involved remote judging where all of the entries were decanted into 100ml bottles and then packed into flights and sent to each judge.
The judges were still able to come together by video conferencing and the consistency of the scoring across the panel of judges was very high.
There were 81 gold, 72 silver and 9 bronze medals awarded across all of the growing regions in New Zealand.
In total Wairarapa received 77, Kāpiti 20, Canterbury 19, Nelson 11, Auckland 9, Hawke's Bay 6, Bay of Plenty 5, Waiheke Island, Northland and Marlborough 4 each, Central Otago 3.
The top awards were as follows:
Best in Show – Kapiti Frantoio Blend, Kapiti
Best Boutique – Tauherenikau – Olive2Oil, Wairarapa
Reserve Best in Show – Blue Earth Intense, Wairarapa
Reserve Best Boutique – Totara Tunnel Frantoio, Kapiti
Best Flavoured Oil – Pressed Gold Midori No Yuzu, Wairarapa.