Not all olive oils are the same. Much like wine, there’s a massive difference between quality. You smell and taste it immediately.
Just like wine, a beautiful olive oil stays with you, delivering soft notes that can range from grass and herbs to floral and citrus. There’s a mouthfeel. There are perfect pairings, that, just like wine, cause the simplest ingredients to shine so brightly.
This month, we bring you Cobram Estate’s Australia Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil. It’s one bottle in a lineup of ultra-premium olive oils, made with exactly the same care and attention to detail you’d find in a fine wine.
In a crazy twist, the founders of Cobram Estate have a lot in common with Penfolds, as well. They have groves in Australia and also in California, offering you tastes of the similarities and the differences these two sister regions have for growing.
Their own journey is also one of Extraordinary Risk and deserved reward.
Rob McGavin and Paul Riordan met in agriculture college in Australia in the early ‘90s, originally studying agribusiness. However, the friends took a trip to Israel, and as travel so often does, it changed their stars.
In Israel, they fell in love with the olive oils — with the differences in flavor, based upon the types of olives mascerated.
The trip would not remain just a memory. They returned to Australia, with the plan to create the finest olive oils possible in the world, from Victoria.
In 1999, they shipped a few hundred clippings from a mix of Israeli olive trees, but the shipment hit a quarantine at the port and half of the clippings died. Undeterred by the loss of money and time, the two doubled down. Today, Cobram Estate is the largest producer of olive oil and has the most groves of any company in Australia. They produce some of the most respected oils — both wonderfully affordable and worthy of luxury dining — in the world.
They expanded into California in 2014, seeking the appeals that Penfolds found. The landscape, climate and consumers were all there.
“The duality is fantastic,” offers CEO/Co-Founder Paul Riordan, of the two regions. “It allows us to
harvest on opposite seasons, focusing on the best of the crop in each. The varieties are different within the oils themselves, too. Our Australia-produced oil is milder and fruiter. It has a bigger, more floral nose, and it is not as bitter. Our California oil has a grassier aroma and is considerably bitter and pungent. It’s bolder. When we submit them in competitions, the Australian oils are submitted under medium category and the California for the bold categories.”
You’ve gotten a bottle of their Australia Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which is great for everything. It’s smooth and creamy, born of a mix of Picual, Hojiblanca and Coratina olives. The flavor has green, tomato bush notes, delicate fig leaves and renders your palate feeling clean after each taste. Drizzle it on a Caprese salad, dip a fresh, warm piece of French bread in a bowl of it, but also don’t be afraid to employ it with heat. You can certainly sauté scallops in this oil. One thing you might not consider? How good it is poured over vanilla ice cream, hit with a little rock salt.
“Don’t hold on to it, though” says Riordan. “It’s not a wine, and it is not going to get better with age. Olive oils should always be consumed at their freshest and stored away from sunlight and away from heat. Do not leave it next to a window or right by your stove.”
Thus, we encourage you to crack open this bottle post-haste! You’ll notice something very fun, when you do. It’s Cobram Estate’s signature pour spout. Built into the bottle, it pops up for easy pouring. When you put the cap back on, it is compressed, ensuring ultimate freshness of your oil.
After you fall head over heels for this label, check out their others, like the sister bottle of California Select, made of a blend of Mission, Ascolano, Manzanillo, Sevillano and Frantoio olives, with a bold flavor of freshly cut grass and tropical fruits.
Want a truly premium olive oil experience? They offer a First Harvest label from Australia and a First Harvest from California each year. “We don’t sell these outside of online,” says Riordan. “It’s extremely limited, at around 2,000 bottles. We are almost sold out now, and people should look out for the releases annually around December. It comes in a clear bottle to showcase the vibrant, almost acid-green color. But we put the bottles in a carton cannister, to keep them fresh.”
At $75, these may happily ruin you for every other olive oil for eternity. And, really, is that such a problem to have?