When Giulio Bertrand – in 1992 – took ownership of Morgenster Estate, situated in the heart of the Cape winegrowing region in Somerset West, during his supposed retirement, he was inspired by the natural beauty of the farm and began dreaming of the olive groves and rolling vineyards of his native Piedmont.
Giulio Bertrand – industrialist, yachtsman and conservationist – is so self-effacing that he prefers to talk about his oil rather than himself. But he admits to a love of South Africa, instilled during regular business trips from Italy, which have enticed him to spending nine months of the year in the Cape.
Since Giulio’s acquisition of Morgenster the place has undergone an agricultural transformation and become a producer not only of some of the most sublime wines to come out of the Cape of Good Hope in recent years but a benchmark olive tree nursery.
And the provenance of a range of olive oils and olive products produced in the style of Giulio’s homeland, Italy. And when Italians do things seriously, they do them to the outer limits of perfection. In Giulio’s words, “where there is passion, there is no compromise.”
The Morgenster Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a blend of the oils of a variety of different olives grown specifically for their oils. I have tasted components of this oil before blending as well as the final blend is bemedalled and becrowned with international awards. Amongst them the Orciolo d’Oro from Italy where it was the first South African olive oil to receive the prestigious L’Orciolo d’Oro award and has been awarded regularly ever since. This Italian challenge was opened to foreign producers for the first time in 1999. The oil has also won a gold medal from the Los Angeles County Fair. It’s been rated “Best of Southern Hemisphere” by South African consumers as the finest Olive Oil, and “Oil of the Year” in the Southern Hemisphere New Season Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition in Australia. Whatever its awards, I find it delicious peppery green and gently bitter and all I think of is some rocket, lemon squirt, sea salt and a grinding of black pepper to make the most perfect of salads.
The Morgenster Lemon Enhanced Olive Oil is made by infusing lemon rind in the oil before the final blend to add an extra flavour dimension making it a perfect accompaniment to seafood and poultry dishes, and adds a delicious zing to salad dressings.
Morgenster’s White Truffle Flavoured Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a blend of the Estate’s oil with white truffles from Piedmont, Italy – a true classic. My best way of using it is to trickle it over cooked homemade pasta with fried sage leaves, and to enhance a risotto. But it needs to be used sparingly like a fine French perfume.
We are very fond of the Morgenster Black and Green Olive Pastes made from the Estates choice olives, blended with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Packed in 130g jars, they contain no preservatives and are ideal for spreading on bruschetti to serve as an appetiser or underneath grilled goat’s cheese with a swirl of oil on top or just stirred onto hot home-made pasta with curls of Parmiggiano Reggiano taken off with a potato peeler.
Morgenster bottles excellent olives for the table. The olives are sorted by hand by trained staff to ensure only the best fruit is used. Kalamata Olives which are renowned as being the finest black table olive – large and fleshy with its distinctive flavour and small pip. The green olives are Nocellara del Belice Olives from Sicily, an olive the Italians love to eat. We just loved them whole with their lovely crunchy texture and ‘creamed nuts’ taste.
As a complement to the Morgenster Olive products in the now very distinct dark, square Morgenster bottle bearing the embossed scallop taken from the front gable of the Morgenster Homestead is a Balsamic Vinegar bearing the certification of the “Consorzio Aceto Balsamico Di Modena”. This certification verifies that the Balsamic is produced in Modena, using traditional methods, where it has been made since the Middle Ages. The collaboration between Giulio Bertrand and the Italian family that has made this Balsamic Vinegar for five generations began in late 2007 when Giulio sought a product to pair alongside his Extra Virgin Olive Oil on the tables of the best South African Restaurants; “It will come only from Modena”, he said with conviction and his well-known passion for quality and his heritage. The concentrated must of mainly Trebbiano grapes used to make this Balsamic is aged for three years in wooden casks where it intensifies, sweetens and takes on the characteristics of the particular wood used.
Says owner Giulio Bertrand: “It became my dream to produce the very best extra virgin olive oil at Morgenster, and now I am really fortunate to be able to witness those dreams coming to fruition.” In 2013 Bertrand was given the Life Time Achiever Award by SAOlive.
This is a clear testimony to the Morgenster philosophy of quality from olive grove to the table.
The Morgenster Olive Product Range is available from the Estate and at selected Delicatessens, Caterix, PicknPay, Spar and Shoprite Checkers.
Vergelegen Avenue, Off Lourensford Road, Somerset West, 7130
P O Box 1616, Somerset West 7129, Western Cape, South Africa
Telephone 021 852 1738