Stephen Davies Howard, owner of Loopline Olives, has repeated the success of the previous owner at the New York International Olive Oil Competition. PHOTO/ALEYNA MARTINEZ

ALEYNA MARTINEZ
aleyna.martinez@age.co.nz

Olives New Zealand were premature in skiting about the success of this country’s product at the New York International Olive Oil Competition, considered to be the authoritative guide to the best of the best oils worldwide.

Premature because their official release about oils certified Gold last week, which featured Featherston’s Olea Estate, didn’t feature Opaki’s Loopline Olives who took home not one award, but two.

Making the achievement greater, was that it was the second consecutive year they had been honoured.

Because of covid-19, judging was completed over a week this year, which Olives New Zealand hadn’t factored in.

Olea Estate received their Gold last Monday, while Loopline had their success confirmed on Wednesday.

Loopline Picholene was awarded Gold last year and repeated that honour this year, along with the brand’s Picual.

Loopline Olives owner Stephen Davies Howard, who took over the company just weeks before last year’s awards, masterminded this year’s success.

“Making great olive oil takes determination, skill and obsessive attention to details,” he said, so it was “incredibly satisfying” to receive global recognition.

Loopline Olives produce around 3500 litres of olive oil, approximately 7000 bottles, from 1000 trees using traditional methods each year.

The brand has been adopted by celebrities.

Simon Gault from Master Chef distributes the oil at Gault Deli in Auckland, and he cooks with it on his online cooking channel.

“Then a couple of people in Hong Kong and Taiwan use it for cooking shows over there as well,” Davies Howard said.

But it’s local support Davies Howard wants, as Loopline’s success was a Wairarapa success.

“Loopline are supported by Andrew Priddle at Wairarapa Olive Harvesting and the team at the Greytown Olive Press; they all contribute to the exceptional quality of Loopline.”

It was easy to justify the $30 retail price, he said.

The difference between boutique oils and the one in the supermarket is “this is only pure fruit juice”.

“The oil you buy in the shops is a blend of old oil, new oil, it is not necessarily extra virgin because there’s three layers – extra virgin olive oil, olive oil and then there’s what’s called almost lamp oil. Commercial producers blend all three and they make a vegetable oil.

“I think words getting out there that Wairarapa oils are as good as any in the world. People buy cheap Spanish or Italian oils from the supermarkets and they will buy it because it’s Italian – but a lot of that is really not very good and it’s been in a ship for months on end and produced in bulk.”

Oil is not like wine, he said, the fresher it is the better the quality and the health benefits.

“If you ever needed a reason to buy local – this is the best in the world – why buy it from somebody else’s [country], buy it from Opaki and I think that goes for New Zealand, not just Wairarapa.”

In two months, Davies Howard will have to make another adjustment relating to covid-19 restrictions.

Usually he would bring a miller from Argentina to complete the last step in processing the oil before its bottled.

“This year’s going to be a little different because obviously he can’t get here”.

Davies Howard said they are looking for someone local to press this year’s harvest.

Loopline Olive Oil is available directly from the olive grove, through online sales at www.looplineolives.co.nz or at local supermarkets and delicatessens.