Grapes might be the star produce of the region, but olives are a very close second.
Among the rolling vistas of vineyards in McLaren Vale you’ll notice the odd row of olive trees and sometimes whole groves of them. The mediterranean climate enjoyed by the region produces the ideal conditions to grow some of the best Shiraz grapes and Kalamata olives. People come to the region not only for the wine, but also for the exceptional olives and olive oils.
The region is home to a collection of boutique, as well as medium to large olive growers – many who have a strong loyal local following. Any local will tell you that you haven’t tried olives until you have tried ‘Frank’s olives’, supplied to the Star of Greece in Port Willunga. Grown on the hill opposite the restaurant, they are a hit with regulars. For other well known growers, head to Coriole, Lloyd Brothers or Primo Estate for some of Australia’s best olives and olive oils.
Coriole cellar door sells packets of olives and bottles of olive oil, with every wine purchase more often than not accompanied by an olive purchase. Taste some in the restaurant and take some home with you too. The Lloyd Brothers olive groves are a sight to behold with their driveway lined with olive trees greeting you as you first drive in. Their cellar door is filled with a variety of different olives in marinades, as well as bottled oils and hamper packs ready for you to enjoy at your picnic stop.
For another quality experience, try The Farm in Willunga, where you can enjoy a meal and browse the range of olive oil soaps and skincare which are produced from their olive oil. Their olives are organic and wines biodynamic, with luxury accommodation onsite that overlooks the groves, with the glistening of Gulf St Vincent in the background. They also conduct tours of their property sharing their passion and philosophy behind their organic vision – make sure you talk to Robyn when you visit.
If it’s just olive oil you’re after, Primo Estate is another favourite – you know it’s good when the locals are always there. While you should certainly visit Primo to sample their wines, don’t forget to try their award-winning Joseph olive oil. Winemaker and olive oil guru Joe Grilli is well known across Australia for his quality products. You might even be lucky enough to have a chat with him during your visit.
Joe Grilli, chief winemaker and olive oil producer at Primo Estate, is one of Australia’s most highly regarded olive oil producers. He says McLaren Vale is leading the way not only in Australia, but around the world. “I travel the world including to Italy and I really believe the quality of olives in McLaren Vale is right up there with the very best in the world,” he says. “It’s an olive wonderland here; I know I’m working with some of the best olives on the planet.” With a variety of olive groves now in the region, he says you can pick and choose the type you like. “I’m trying to make the best olive oils I can, but Mark (Lloyd) from Coriole is producing outstanding olives and oils. It’s a bit like our wines; we all work in different ways so you can try something different.”
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