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At Mypolonga, Jared Bettio strives to create the perfect olive oil
Rio Vista Olives' Elisi Grove has already been named the best extra virgin olive oil in Australia, but its general manager isn't satisfied yet.
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Jared Bettio is on a quest to achieve perfection.
When he talks about the olive oil he produces at Mypolonga, he speaks urgently, imparting his thoughts on everything from the grass beneath his trees to the modifications made to his processing equipment.
He draws comparisons to things like Penfolds Grange, or professional motor racing teams.
And even though his Elisi Grove extra virgin olive oil has just been named the best in Australia, he’s not going to rest on his laurels.
“This year we got 95 out of 100,” he said.
“What do we need to to to get that last five?”
Rio Vista Olives has groves at Mypolonga and Mount Torrens, and processes its fruit in a non-descript shed down the road from Aussie Apricots.
It is here an oil was produced that the judges at the Australian International Olive Awards described as “a lovely, light-bodied, lively oil on the palate with good complexity ... complex and multidimensional”.
Elisi Grove is the company’s premium product, made from cold-pressed Kalamata olives grown in a grove named for Mr Bettio’s niece.
The family only got into the business about five years ago; before that Mr Bettio was a construction manager, working on high-end real estate.
Now he applies the same focus to his new craft.
“It’s got to be perfect the whole way through,” he said.
Everything Rio Vista does is intended to maximise the quality of the oil it produces.
The company begins harvesting its fruit in late March, earlier than anywhere else in South Australia, which reduces volume but improves the flavour and gives the trees longer to recover between seasons.
The olives are washed and crushed, and the oil extracted at a temperature somewhere between 23.6 and 28 degrees; a higher temperature would produce more oil, but again, that is not the goal.
Then there’s a process of decanting and filtration, the one concession Mr Bettio makes.
An unfiltered olive oil would taste incrementally better to begin with, but its flavour would decay more quickly, which would ultimately give most consumers a poorer experience.
Every one of the 18 olive varieties Rio Vista grew had its own flavour profile, Mr Bettio said: Greek olives were fruity, Italian ones herbaceous and Spanish ones infused with tones of wasabi or nasturtium.
Olives from separate groves were processed separately, so each retained its own terroir, like grapes from a fine vineyard.
The company goes to incredible lengths to keep light, heat and air from affecting its oil, including measures Mr Bettio was happy to show Murray Bridge News but preferred to keep secret.
Rio Vista’s no-compromise approach has already won it fans among some high-level Australian chefs, and he hoped everyday consumers would appreciate his efforts, too.
“If you get the right oil on your food, it makes a massive difference,” he said.
“Oil can transfer so much flavour.
“Think about when you sip those oils, how they line your palate.”
Rio Vista olive oils are available online; at retailers including Drakes, Coles, Top Notch Foods and Romeo’s; and at a cellar door at 6 Penna Avenue, Glynde.
More information: riovistaolives.com.au.
Disclosure: The author accepted a gift of a bottle of the Elisi Grove olive oil from Mr Bettio.