RIVER GROVE OLIVES
River Grove lies on the banks of the Ruamahanga River, just north of Masterton in the beautiful Wairarapa. Owners Steven and Chris Price and children James, Katy and Beth moved over the hill from Wellington in 2004 to start a new life. We arrived in time for the first harvest from our olive trees and have learned much and worked hard in the years since. The children have finished school and James and Katy have left home. The original 19 hectare property has been added to, with the purchase of a further 17 adjacent hectares in 2014. The olive trees take up around seven hectares, with the balance used for grazing beef. The grazing is currently being operated under lease. Steven is well on the way to increasing the grove size by propagating and planting up to 5000 more trees on the new block.
Currently the grove consists of around 1600 olive trees, most of which were planted in 2000. Our two main varieties are the Tuscans, deliciously fruity Frantoio and complex, peppery Leccino, but in the years since we came we have planted several other varieties including Koroneiki, a tiny olive from Greece that produces wonderful, flavoursome oil and Chemlali (another fruity Tuscan) which is proving popular with those who taste it. The trees flower around November and the fruit is ready for harvest in early winter. The Frantoio, Leccino and several of the other varieties are harvested mechanically by a contractor, with the younger trees (under seven years old) still hand-harvested by Steven, using compressed-air clappers. The fruit is taken within hours to the press for processing. As our harvest tonnage grows (33 tonnes in 2018), we have decided to sell the bulk of the fruit to The Village Press in Hastings, having only a small amount of oil returned to us for direct sale to our valued customers. All the oil we retain for sale is sent, with the assistance of Olives New Zealand, to Australia to be certified as extra-virgin.
The 2020 harvest was completed at the end of June, after a difficult growing year, not helped by drought in the early months. We will have plenty of our two most popular oils, Frantoio and Leccino, ready for sale soon. This year, we sent some of our Manzanilla to Telegraph Hill in Hastings for processing into table olives.
It is July and the trees are hunkered down under seemingly constant gray skies. But there are daffodils under the kowhai and lambs and calves in neighbouring paddocks and we can soon look forward to this year’s flowering.