Australian olives branch out to world, as new competition boasts distinctive Wagga flavour

BRANCHING OUT: Shane Cummins at the CSU winery, where he picked olives with the Long Paddock Olive Rustlers. Picture: Les Smith
BRANCHING OUT: Shane Cummins at the CSU winery, where he picked olives with the Long Paddock Olive Rustlers. Picture: Les Smith

After 20 years, The Australian National Extra Virgin Olive Oil Show has gone global and there’s a distinctive Wagga flavour about it. 

Wagga’s Shane Cummins is chairman of judges for the reborn Australian International Olive Awards, the only competition in the world incorporating both table olives and oil. 

He’s been in the game for two decades, starting his love affair with the salty fruit while picking from public and abandoned groves with the Long Paddock Olive Rustlers. He completed the DPI’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil Appreciation and Assessment course in 2009. 

While still working out what makes the ‘perfect’ oil, he’s confident you can get it here. 

“I’m a touch biased but happy to say the best olive oils in the world come from Wagga, though I occasionally clash with people from Griffith and Rutherglen,” he said.

“Oils have always been seen as the base of cooking, rather than a key ingredient or hero. 

“A good oil is really like pepper, it brings out the flavour of a meal.”

Mr Cummins will meet olive aficionados from all over the world next week in Adelaide for a massive three days of training and judging. 

He said Australia has looked overseas for industry guidance, but we hold many of the answers ourselves. 

“Because of that clean, green image Australia has, because of the mechanisation we have in horticulture and agriculture, because of the quality assurance standards in place, we’re actually making really good oil.

“We’re putting all of those things into practice, and we’re learning the trade and the craft as we go.

“We looked overseas for a long time, but the answer’s not necessarily over there.

“We’re not leading the world but we’re not far off it.”

Victoria’s Cobram Estate have taken out best in show in New York a number of times and Mr Cummins said a lot of Aussie oils aren’t far behind them.

Many of the world’s olive oils are accredited right here at the DPI’s testing lab. To pass the bar oils have to be free of faults and have chemistry within strict parameters, assessed by a panel of eight people.

Mr Cummins said he’s currently working out how to get the most out of the international knowledge about to land in Adelaide. 

“It’s an opportunity to balance our ideas and perceptions out with the rest of the world,” he said. 

Judging will wrap up on Saturday, with results of the first Australian International Olive Awards available on the AOA website on September 29.