What makes a good olive oil?

Interview with Zani Flanagan, olive oil expert

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Ridge Estate Olive Oil, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria

Ridge Estate Olive Oil, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria [©Mornington Peninsula Gourmet]

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Zani Flanagan, Olive Oil Judge, Hobart Food Show - Part 1 [©VisitVineyards.com]


Zani Flanagan is an Australian olive oil judge. Whilst in Tasmania judging at the Royal Hobart Fine Food Show she tells us what she looks for in an olive oil and why it is good for us.

“Olive oil is extremely healthy for you and I came to this industry from the food industry where I owned restaurants and from there I’ve gone back to olive oil to get back to basics. For me olive oil is the basic food. We all need oil and fat in our diet and I’ve headed towards the healthy option which is extra virgin olive oil.

“There has been a bit of a renaissance in the olive oil industry you know. We’ve got a lot of new technology, we’ve got a lot of new information and research; it’s a bit like the wine industry actually. That knowledge and the research and our attitude to this industry has meant we are probably up there with the Europeans in quality; we just need to get quantity and sustainable levels of production up there as well.

“I think what’s happened is that the gourmet market here and the health market has started to join whereas as gourmet foods were out of the price range and were seen to be elitist, what’s happened now is that the serious foodies in Australia have realised that good foods are tied to sustainable agricultural practice and that the food that comes out of that practice is good for us.

“It’s not just a trend in Australia, it’s a trend worldwide. Tasmania and New Zealand are well aware of this and very much protecting their clean green image, underpinning that with real criteria with fine foods. I think we are starting to realise that production of good foods starts right here with good soil and it ends up with food that we are unafraid to put in our mouths or into our children’s mouths.”

According to Zani, olive oil has to have a balance of flavour first of all. “The oil has to taste and smell of olives or it‘s not typical of the fruit from whence it came. It has a level of bitterness and pungency, pungency is a sensation in the mouth, a sensation that stimulates the cells and taste buds in the mouth and the bitterness helps strips the fat away from the mouth after the oil has gone into the mouth.

“Remember this is 100% fat, you know there is nothing light or pure about this, this is 100% extra virgin olive oil and this is 100% fat. We need fat in our diet and one of the decisions we as consumers have to make is what sort of fat we want to put in our body and this has thousands of years of history and research behind it telling us that this is very good for us.

The competitions, says Zani, encourage people to compare how their oil measures up against other producers and to encourage within the industry a practice of excellence. It provides an opportunity to understand what it is that makes one olive oil superior over another. 

“It doesn’t matter what food product it is, industry competitions are an indication not only to your peers in the industry but to consumers, to retailers, to distributors and to overseas markets that we’ve got the best cheese, best olive oil and the best bread to come out of this region in this general competition so therefore this region must be doing something right.”

© VisitVineyards® 2007




  • Hobart (TAS)

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