THE Margaret River region is full of success stories, many of which revolve around tourism, wine or fine foods.
But Olio Bello is a different kind of winner for the region. Olio Bello is an olive oil.
Jack and Sue Witkin’s olive plantation at Cowaramup Creek Farm covers 130 hectares and has more than 7,000 olive trees.
The Witkins harvested their first olive crop in 1998 and their unique blends have won numerous awards, including four medals at this year’s Perth Royal Show.
The past year marked Olio Bello’s sixth vintage, with 130 tonnes of olives produced, returning more than 10,000 litres of extra virgin olive oil.
Olives weren’t the number one priority for the Witkins after they bought the Cowaramup Creek Farm property, thanks to an Italian friend who introduced them to the region. They experimented with a range of produce before stumbling across the olives trees, which originally were installed on the property as a windbreak.
But of all the crops it was the olives that thrived, and the Witkins found themselves unwitting pioneers in the State’s olive industry.
The name Olio Bello came from the same Italian friend who introduced them to Margaret River. When asked what he thought their olive oil should be called, the friend replied: “Olio Bello – the beautiful oil”.
Director of marketing and product development Jan Morris has been involved with Olio Bello for three years, and she believes the company is looking at a bright future.
Margaret River has proved an ideal location for olive production, according to Ms Morris, who says Olio Bello takes pride in the strong, full flavours of its product.
“Our oils are handmade, and pressed the same day,” she said.
“By blending our own, it creates distinctive varieties. We installed our own press to completely control the quality of our oils.”
Ms Morris said the Mediterranean climate of the South West had proved ideal for growing olives.
The business provided a continual learning curve, she said, particularly with regard to ascertaining which olives produced the best oils, which oils blended well with other oils, and which oils complemented different foods.
The limited research into the industry in WA meant establishing olives was a process of “reinventing the wheel at every turn”, she said.
For the first time this year the vintage at Olio Bello was big enough for the Witkins to consider exporting their produce.
Ms Morris said negotiating export markets, and moving towards a 100 per cent organic plantation, were among the initiatives being implemented to keep Olio Bello at the forefront of the local industry.
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