Liquid Gold: Tokara Extra Virgin Olive Oil

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tokara wine estate olives deli helshoogte pass franschhoek
Tokara Wine Estate, Helshoogte Pass, Franschhoek

Would you ever combine olive oil with chocolate, salted caramel and ice cream? Tokara Wine Estate executive chef Richard Carsten does, and it is sublime.

At a media event this past week, we were treated to a tasting of the estate’s extra virgin olive oils and wines, along with chef Richard’s culinary wizardry. The tasting took place at the magnificent Tokara Deli, famous for its breathtaking architecture and installation art. The food ain’t half bad either, although I am sure anything eaten surrounded by such natural beauty would taste like ambrosia.

The three oils poured for us were a 100% Frantoio, the Tokara Multi-Varietal, and Tokara Premium Blend. These were matched with Director’s Reserve White, Tokara Elgin Sauvignon Blanc and Tokara Stellenbosch Chardonnay. Special olive oil tasting glasses containing measures of each oil allows one to warm the oil by cupping the glass between one’s palms before taking a sip. The idea is to swirl the oil around one’s mouth, from side to side and back to front, before slurping some air in to oxygenate the oil. Much like wine tasting, in fact! The characteristics to look for in a good extra virgin olive oil are: fruitiness, bitterness and piquancy. The Frantoio is quite grassy and peppery, with the Multi-Varietal and Premium blends more balanced and nuanced.

Our lunch concluded with 2 desserts, paired triumphantly with the Tokara  Multi-Varietal – a sensational soft chocolate ganache tart with walnut, salt and caramel, and an olive oil cake with vanilla ice cream, lemon zest, grated fresh ginger, pine nuts and white balsamic jelly. Both desserts were extraordinary in execution and simplicity, and I highly recommend you should try them!

TOKARA hosts educational olive oil tastings alongside a wine tasting to the public. When the weather is good, a stroll along the olive orchard path is a wonderful way to get acquainted with the lie of the land, so to speak.

All of these oils can be tasted at the estate tasting room, and are also for sale in the Deli. Other stockists are: Spar, Checkers, Woolworths and select delicatessens countrywide.

 At TOKARA, high on the Helshoogte pass between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the relationship between the olive grove and the vineyard is embraced and celebrated. Renowned for its sophisticated wine and culinary offerings, TOKARA also produces award-winning extra virgin olive oils since 2000.  

Anne-Marie Ferreira, founding member of the Olive Shed, recalls what her motivation was to plant olive trees on TOKARA at a time when the South African olive oil industry was virtually nonexistent. “Our family is passionate about wine and food, and both elements play such a vital role in bringing family and friends together. It therefore made absolute sense for us to plant olives to produce quality extra virgin olive oil that would complement our quality wine range.”

The olives are hand-harvested and then processed in a boutique pressing facility on the estate, from middle March each year till the beginning of July. Having planted predominantly Frantoio, Leccino and Mission olives on the property, TOKARA was the first South African olive oil producer to bottle and market single varietal olive oils from these varietals. 

It is something you don’t readily find elsewhere and it is something we pride ourselves on. It gives the consumer a wider array to choose from and with which to experiment,” says TOKARA’s Olive Oil maker Gert van Dyk.

In order to ensure the best quality oils are extracted from the olives, they are cold pressed – with temperatures kept under 30 degrees Celsius – within 24 hours of being harvested. Planted on the steepest slopes of the farm, this olive oil project began with only a 4ha olive grove in 2000. A year later, the first 500 bottles of extra virgin olive oil were bottled. “Extra virgin simply means the highest quality classification that we can give an olive oil,” says Gert. “And you can only make extra virgin olive oil from superior olives”.

At TOKARA, the approach to olive oil is also about changing perceptions of how it is consumed. “You can add it to anything and that’s what we wish to convey to our consumers,” says Gert. “From drizzling it over a salad, to adding it to a minestrone soup, or even incorporating it in desserts – it’s such a natural, healthy and versatile ingredient.”

Striving to create unique and bespoke experiences on the estate, TOKARA hosts educational olive oil tastings alongside a wine tasting offering. When the weather is good, a stroll along the olive orchard path is also a favorite with visitors.

“It’s something different to what other places offer and we are fortunate to be able to showcase this to our visitors,” says Gert.

TOKARA is open 9am-5pm weekdays and 10am-3pm on Saturdays and Sundays. For further information visit, email or phone 021 808 5900.

tokara extra virgin olive oils wine estate helshoogte pass
Tokara Estate Olive Groves, Helshoogte Pass, Franschhoek
tokara olive oils
Tokara extra virgin olive oils, sold at the estate tasting room
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Celebrating life with food, wine, friends & happiness! Writer, cook and blogger. Author of four cookbooks. Passionately South African, proudly Capetonian.