Monday, August 02, 2010

Mount Zero Olive Oil Masterclass

Mount Zero Olives and Enterprises P/L
5/2A Holmwood Road
Tottenham VIC 3012
Ph: (03) 9315 1415
Website: Mount Zero Olives

Oils ain't oils. That's what Ricky Ponting and John Laws have been telling us for ages. How right they are. I used to think that all olive oils were the same, but after attending the Mount Zero Olive Oil Masterclass, I now know better. Mount Zero Olive Oil is one of only a few Australian owned olive oil producers, and currently they are setting up a blending lab at the cellar of Prince Wine Store in St Kilda. You can go daily between 2pm and 7pm to taste and select from 10 distinct varietals from across Victoria. You can even create your own blend of oil using the varietals.

At the masterclass, I got to taste all ten varietals of olive oils that Mount Zero produce, from types such as Verdale, Manzanilla, Picual, Koroneiki, Picholine, Coratina, Frontoio and more. The Manzanilla olives are grown in Victoria and is biodynamic, whilst the other varietals are sourced from other farms around Victoria. Richard Seymour, whose family own the business, told me that Mount Zero has chosen to grown their olives biodynamically since it is environmentally more efficient as studies have shown that growing food biodynamically uses less energy per kilogram of food production than other methods.

Richard then explained the various stages of oil production, from picking the fruit to pressing it. In the past, a stone mill was used to crush the fruit into a pulp before passing it through fibre mats which were spun to use centrifugal force to extract the oil. Centrifugal force is still used to separate the oils from the flesh in modern machinery nowadays.

During the class, the four types of olive oils that we tasted and then took notes on were the Verdale, Manzanilla, Picual and Koroneiki varietals. We first heated the cup of oil in our hands and swirled it to release the aromas. We sniffed the oil just like you would do with wine. Then we slurped (you're suppose to slurp and spray a fine mist of the oil all around your mouth) and swirled the oils around in our mouths to cover all the tastebuds on the tongue. Each oil definitely had a distinct aroma, flavour and colour. For example, I thought the Verdale smelled like grass and banana, tasted like green bananas and had a medium yellow colour. The Manzanilla again smelled like grass and banana, but the taste was much more buttery, with a spicy kick at the end after it was well and truly past the throat. The Picual instantly smelled of tomato to me, and also tasted like tomato with a spicy end note. The darkest of all the oils was the Koroneiki, which smelled like tropical fruit, with an ultra strong taste and was super spicy.

Chef Paul Wilson of Middle Park Hotel was also in attendance at the olive oil masterclass. He gave insight into what restaurants required of their oils, using numerous types to match with different foods. Paul uses Mount Zero oils in his restaurants and gave examples of foods he would match with the oils tried. For the Verdale, he recommended pasta with maybe some crab and chilli. The Manzanilla could be used for an emulsified sauce, the Picual for marinating grilled meats and the Koroneiki with it's strong flavour, with robust foods.

I learnt so much about olive oil and will never look at it the same way again. For comparison, we smelled some supermarket olive oils and they lacked all the vibrancy of the Mount Zero varietals. That's because as Richard kept repeating, olive oils are a fruit juice, and fruit juice doesn't age well. Once it is picked and bottled, it is deteriorating and becoming an inferior product with each passing day. The Mount Zero oils are all picked, cold pressed and bottled within six weeks, whereas supermarket oils are usually from 6 months old to 2 years old.

The Mount Zero olive oils can be bought at various farmer's markets around Melbourne or via the website. You can go to Prince Wine Store and try them out in the next week. I blended a Picual and Frantoio varietal together to create my unique bottle. It was a great gift to take home as well as learning so much about olive oils. Go and sign up to one of the masterclasses if you too want to learn more.

Thanks to Paul Wilson and Richard Seymour from Mount Zero Olive Oil for inviting me to the masterclass.


  1. Love attending events that not only feed the tastebuds, but also feed the mind. Cheers for the lowdown on supermarket oils. Oils aint oils!

  2. Hien, it was an extremely interesting class.

    Adrian, my mind was definitely well fed. Oils definitely ain't oils.