Lot Eight Martinborough - The Good Oil

Lot Eight - Inside the Olive Grove

On a cold Autumn day, with light southerly winds whispering through Martinborough village - a reminder that winter is near - we ventured out on Lake Ferry Road to visit the home of Lot Eight.
Renowned as one of New Zealand's finest producers of extra virgin & cold pressed fragrant olive oils, we were excited to see what lay behind the scenes at the Lot Eight olive grove.

On arrival we were warmly invited by Nalini Baruch (self professed "food lover") out of the cold & into the Lot Eight tasting room, what lay within... quite simply stunning. Beautiful bottles of Lot Eight olive oil proudly displayed at intervals around the room, delicate floral arrangements, bowls of fresh produce, mortar & pestle, spices, fresh herbs... This pristine, homely space inspired the senses before any oil had even touched our lips.

Mid-room a table was beautifully laid, hinting at culinary delights to come... We suspected this was going to be something special, feeling honoured to be here & excited at what lay ahead!

The Discerning Artisan Producer - Lot Eight

Nalini & husband Colin have owned Lot Eight for 18 years, it's a dream come to fruition through visionary dedication, hard work & an obvious passion for food. No ordinary run of the mill producer here, this couple live & breathe the food ethic they so lovingly impart into every bottle of Lot Eight oil & every home made dish - it's not "just producing" it's a way of life.

Nalini educates us on extra virgin olive oil... this truly is the "good oil" people - let us tell you why.
Extra virgin olive oil, Nalini describes as "clean" - simply & purely "the drop that comes out of an olive" no additives at all. Then there are the cold pressed fragrant oils, where quality natural ingredients, like lemons, limes, herbs, chilli are pressed with the olives... but there's more to ensuring a good oil is produced.

Extra virgin olive oil should be certified by industry regulation body Olives New Zealand, so you can be sure of its extra virgin status. There's more to this than meets the eye, we are already learning that olive oil appreciation involves more than just choosing a bottle off the supermarket shelf, there's as much a range of quality as prices.

This is a strong driver behind Nalini's passion for her craft, she feels consumer awareness of oil quality & not knowing how to use oil in cooking are the biggest issues faced by producers. Then there's the issue of affordability, quality oils are higher in price but the end result can be cost effective if used properly. Education, says Nalini, is the key, so this is where the Lot Eight commercial kitchen & tasting room comes in. It's not only a gastronomic experience but definitely an educational one happening here.
Scroll down to hear about our Lot Eight tasting experience... prepare to be amazed

The Lot Eight ethic

Nalini is hands on at every step of production, selecting raw ingredients carefully to achieve the best flavours. Preferring to see them in their natural form rather than blind purchasing, the product quality starts at its inception, there's an intuitive skill as well as food science.

70% of Lot Eight oil goes to chefs - Nalini working alongside the chefs, advising on the oils, which variety best suits their menus, to ensure optimal results. There are also Lot Eight selected rubs, dukkah & marinated olives as complementary products to the oil.

Nalini explains the tasting process, there are stages to this experience, first things first... olive oil should not be the dominant taste but a flavour enhancer, combining & enriching the natural flavours of basic ingredients.

Lot Eight have an ethic of quality in every aspect of their product, it's not just oil, it's a whole food experience.

Olive Oil Tasting with Lot Eight

The first step was tasting the oil, Lot Eight have 5 to sample. "Always serve oil with warm bread" advises Nalini "Most oils like a bit of heat before they release their flavours. When you sample an oil, think of a dish... what would you like to have with this?" The tasting is sensational, each oil imparting its own subtle nuances. In a technical tasting, one would taste the oil on its own.

Extra virgin - the "Oil Makers" blend is the starting point, it's perfect, I detect a subtle fruity flavour.
Next is the Lot Eight Reserve - showcasing a variety called Koroneiki, a greek cultivar - divine!Then citrus - stunning! A fruity flavour explosion.
Harissa is next (spice heaven! Imagine this on warm potatoes) then sweet aromatic (vanilla on stone fruit, pancakes, french toast...) both these oils as sensational as each other - at opposite ends of the flavour spectrum.
Now, having just experienced a raft of incredible flavours... time to clean the palate with fresh water & onto the next stage of the Lot Eight Experience.

Add 3 Ingredients - tomato, basil & salt

Nalini shows us how to change the taste of the oil by adding raw ingredients.....the learning here is to see how the oil tastes on its own then with food.

"The same 5 oils 5 different tastes" Nalini prepares the tasting spoons with salt, cherry tomatoes & crushed basil leaves. "Raw ingredients & olive oil is all you need" she explains. The Lot Eight bottle is equipped with a pouring spout - precision pouring to ensure no waste "I love this part" says Nalini as she carefully pours the oil over the raw ingredients....we watch, mesmerised.

"It's all about good wholesome natural ingredients thrown together" explains Nalini "everything from basic clean foods!" Nalini completes the tasting with a delicious salad made by tossing together all the ingredients used so far....bread, tomato & basil salad with Lot Eight Reserve as a dressing & sprinkled with her dukkah. Delicious..........we came away feeling completely nourished, body & soul.

The Martinborough Connection

Lot Eight are an established Martinborough artisan producer with a grove of some 400 trees. They also have over a dozen contracted groves supplying olives to produce their oil. The Lot Eight brand is well known & respected here & overseas with stockists like Kirkcaldies & Stains in Wellington, & a Los Angeles based US Agent.

They are happy based in Martinborough, "What's not to love about Martinborough" states Nalini. In the 18 years here they have seen it develop into the town it is today, a popular tourist destination with huge potential. Nalini's vision? "Martinborough could become the food capital of NZ"......no small dream but with quality producers like Lot Eight here this is a definite possibility.

Let's keep watching this space .........

Lot Eight - The Perfect Finish

So there you have it, the perfect finish thanks to Lot Eight. We came, saw, tasted & we've learnt that not all oil is equal - Its production is an intuitive science & we feel more enriched for the experience. Currently working on a cookbook, Nalini is writing 2-4 hours per day, designing recipes which use fresh flavours to create simple but sensational meals. The model for the book being master recipes you can build from. "You can impress people with a lot of things but definitely with food" says Nalini.

We've certainly been impressed today, this experience will stay with us for a long time to come & we'll be talking about it to many. We'll also be stopping before we buy, reading labels & being aware of quality indicators...overall we'll be more discerning as we've now been educated on the "good oil".

One drop at a time you can change the world.

At time of writing Lot Eight received a GOLD award in New York!
Congratulations from Martinborough on your achievement!
For more info on Lot Eight see their website:

Lot Eight website

Trish Higginson & Karina Hailwood
Creative Directors
Martinborough Village
"Let us show you the magic of our little town"

Photo credit Geoff Walker
Copyright MV 2015
Enquiries to karina@martinborough-village.co.nz


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