HAVING major success with her homegrown olive oil blends in prestigious Australian and United States shows, Rylstone Olive Press co-principal and sommelier Jayne Bentivoglio decided to keep her Italian Frantoio varietal straight and enter it in the extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) Italian varietal class of the inaugural 2017 Australian International Olive Awards.
It was so good the oil took out champion Italian varietal, best Australian EVOO, best Southern Hemisphere and “Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil” of show at Adelaide in September.
The award is the pinnacle of Mrs Bentivoglio’s oil making career to-date having shown her olive oils to gain gold and silver medals at Sydney, Canberra, Perth and Adelaide shows since 2003, plus gold at the highly acclaimed New York show in the US.
The label is the Cudgegong II Frantoio and comes from a selection of the varietal growing among a grove of 2000 trees planted in an eastern paddock in 2000 at the 127 hectare “Tarmons”, Rylstone, purchased by Jayne and Peter Bentivoglio in 1997.
“We were number two in the world in 2013 in the New York competition and we’ve won best olive oil in the Armonia Show, Italy,” Jayne said.
With the “altruistic idea” to help reduce the world’s cholesterol, the Bentivoglios decided to grow olives for their healthy oil production – and potentially lowering neurological disease incidences.
Peter Bentivoglio is a neurosurgeon at St Vincent’s Hospital, Potts Point, while Jayne was a double-certificate registered nurse and operating room nurse at St Vincent’s prior to them investing in olive oil production.
The property was named after “Tarmons”, the house and land of Sir Charles Nicholson, which he sold to the Sisters Of Charity in 1857 for the first St Vincent’s Hospital in Australia.
“In 1998 our first plantings totalled 6000 trees, 1500 in the front block and 4500 in the back paddock with Israeli consultant Professor Shimon Levae,” Jayne said. Two years later another 2000 trees went in, in the eastern paddock.
These were of eight varieties from Spain, Italy and Israel. Next step was the purchase of a baby Fattoria press in 2000, which set the course to success.
“From then we have been processing olive oil for ourselves and other growers using a 1.2 tonne continuous extraction processing machine,” Jayne said.
A terracotta style purpose-built quadrangle building over 1700 square metres was constructed in 2012 featuring an open-spaced front for conference, dining with commercial catering kitchen and awards display, office, laboratory, press room, storage and bottling/labelling, packaging and dispatch. Thousands of litres are now produced annually.
Three oils have won gold medals among four different varietals and a Picual and Frantoio.
“The picual, a Spanish olive, came third in the national show, and it is my Cudgegong Number I while the frantoio (national best) is my Cudgegong Number II, but I put that under a limited edition this year,” Jayne said.
Labels are named after Australian rivers.
“All my oils this year are Crooked River, named after my dad’s winery at Gerringong and is a lighter oil; the Murray Darling is a regional blend with oil from Clare in South Australia.
“Murrumbidgee River is a blend, with oil from Murrumbateman and Cudgegong, my most medium, more complex and most fruity oils.”
Altitude at 750 metres above sea level and soils from between 320 to 280 million years-old are being credited among the unique values attributing to the Bentivoglio oils’ success.
“I believe where we are the Pyangle Pass granite and Rylstone volcanics have weathered down to the granite, so our soil is mostly mixed with the remnants of the volcanics and the 320 million-year-old soil and a 675 millimetre average annual rainfall,” Jayne said.
“We have just finished flowering and the next stage will be fruit set,” Jayne said.
“Stone hardening begins in January and the fruit then grows and gains oil accumulation until harvest after Anzac Day because at this altitude I like to get the fruit picked before the frosts.
“We sacrifice oil yield for oil quality.”
The Bentivoglios’ passion for their olives and the oils produced at “Tarmons” is equally shared by staff.
“We have a wonderful team of dedicated people here,” Jayne said.
“The longest have been with us for 19 and 17 years. Helen Johnson, Prue Puskar and Ian Preece are gems.
Helen and Prue helped me plant our first trees.”
Oils are distributed throughout Australia and Singapore and noted chefs have preferences for special blends.
“We work closely with a lot of chefs and I make olive oils for Pilu at Freshwater and also Matteo at Jonah’s, Whale Beach,” Jayne said.