Accidental Artisan Producers and Surprise Award Winners.
It all started in 2013 when...
we purchased our delightfully located property in Deans Marsh, with a sadly neglected olive grove. With no background or experience in olives, we just assumed things would look after themselves. In our earlier lives we were never afraid to take on a challenge, so we figured this was something we could do. Little did we know.........
Although it was obvious that the trees hadn't been pruned for years, it soon became apparent that they were sadly afflicted with a severe black scale infestation, with the accompanying (and quite disgusting) sooty mould - which we now know is a common disease affecting olive trees everywhere. So started the learning exercise, and so did the work. Who thought the trees would look after themselves? Hmm.
Aggressive pruning, selective pest and disease management, and an organic diet of fish and seaweed emulsion, gave the olive trees a big boost. By early 2014, the trees were responding to the care and attention. Harvest time came around, so we dutifully picked the olives (by hand) and drove them away for off-site pressing. Although our harvest was small, the quality was very satisfying. Maybe we were onto something?
In 2015, the trees were more productive, and we timed our harvest carefully. Again, we sent our olives away for processing, only to get a call saying "your oil is so good that you should enter it into a competition". We hadn't though of that, so we did.
,At the RASV Fine Food Awards we won two gold and two silver medals, and our Picual won Champion Boutique Oil. Pleasantly surprised, we then entered the 2015 National Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition, where we won two gold and two silver medals, and then took out trophies for Champion Victorian Oil, and Australian Reserve Champion Oil.
Was it just beginners luck?
After an incredibly dry summer and autumn, our prospects for 2016 looked grim. The trees were unhappy - we had no water for irrigation, and the irrigation system doesn't even work (don't mention the war). The trees had to manage alone, so they reacted with disappointing productivity.
Then we discovered that our processor wasn't going to process olives this year. Just another challenge? Sure was, so we bought their olive press and so started our next challenge. Did I say we like a challenge?
So, we upgraded the power supply, installed the press, and we timed our harvest carefully. We hand-picked each single variety individually, and cold pressed, with our new toy, with the aim to ensure maximum flavour, freshness, and character. Have I mentioned our wonderful friends and family? They really put the shoulder to the wheel, and without them we would have no oil to speak of - THANKS!!
Something must have worked, because.......
At the 2016 Royal Agricultural Society Victoria Australian Food Awards (AFA) we were very pleased to win a total of seven medals, including 4 gold and two silver medals, with our our Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil taking the Trophy for Best EVOO of Show.
This was shortly followed by the 2016 National EVOO Competition, with a two gold and 4 silver medals, and trophy for 2016 Reserve Champion Australian oil.
Just quietly, we reckon that this all just demonstrates the effectiveness of the hard work put in by everyone involved - all that free labour made a difference!
Maluka Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil exhibits intense aroma, flavour, and persistence, reflecting the cool temperate climate of The Otway Ranges. A region that is producing amazing food and wines. We are very proud to be part of this incredibly vibrant region.
The story will unfold over the next few years. Just wait for our wines - only 2-3 years before our first vintage. Fingers crossed!