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The History of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in Australia

The history of olive oil in Australia

Although olive oil is quoted by some sources to date back to pre-4000 BC, the olive oil industry in Australia is much newer than in other parts of the world, like Greece or Spain. However, older doesn't always mean better. Learn about the rise of the olive oil industry in Australia and its reputation for top quality EVOO.

Australia's first olive trees

Olive trees were introduced to Australia in around 1800, with the first attempts at commercial olive oil production commencing in the 1840s (some 20 years before the country became “Australia” in 1901).

As with much of early Australian history post-British colonisation, the industry was spearheaded by convicts, with world-class olive oil first being produced by prisoners in South Australia. Unsurprisingly, one of the first Australian olive oil pioneers was Sheriff William Boothby. Boothby originally encouraged the planting of olive trees as a way to keep prisoners occupied, became a promoter of olive oil, toured Europe to learn more about oil production and even wrote a treatise on the subject.

In the early 1900s, Australian domestic oil could not compete with the price of imported oils. Oils from Spain, Greece and Italy in addition to the influx of immigrants from Southern Europe post-WWII continued to be imported at high levels. For this reason, olive oil locally produced in Australia never garnered the reputation of being legitimate or high-quality simply because it was not as readily available.

An olive oil renaissance

The Australian olive oil industry experienced a renaissance in the 1980s when the Meditteraen diet became popularised. More significant amounts of olive groves were planted, which increased the volume of Australian-produced extra virgin olive oil.

Although the Australian olive oil industry has not been established for the same length of time as in parts of Europe, this does not reflect the quality of the oil itself. In fact, with some of the highest food standards in the world, Australian olive oil is some of the best-tasting in the entire industry as there are more stringent regulations on how the oil is produced, stored and sold.

The primary factors that set apart high-quality extra virgin olive oil from oils that are substandard are the following:

  • Optimal soil conditions, including well-drained soil that doesn’t get too cold
  • A Mediterranean-like climate with long, warm, dry summers and mild winters

Of course, there are many factors that influence the quality, such as how the trees are maintained and cared for. However, these two factors play a huge part when it comes to what varieties can be grown on a particular grove, as well as the ripening process of the olives.

When considering these factors, southern Australia is an optimal location for olive tree cultivation. In particular, the Goulburn Valley, where Goldi’s single estate grove is based, has highly favourable conditions when it comes to olive oil production. The Goulburn Valley in Victoria boasts the trifecta when it comes to producing award-winning oil: a Mediterranean climate; abundant water resources from the Goulburn River; and rich, alluvial soil.

So, one might then wonder: why purchase oil that has a massive carbon footprint from Europe when you can get quality in your own backyard?

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Goldi acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the traditional custodians of the land upon which we live and work. Our groves in Victoria in the Shepparton region sit on the land of the Yorta Yorta people, and in the Limestone Coast in South Australia, we operate on the land of the Ngarrindjeri and Booandik people. Goldi is committed to supporting these communities for our business operating on these lands.