Morgenster Estate: review of olive oil tasting experience

OTT!! Vanilla ice cream, drizzled with lemon enhanced Morgenster olive oil

Oh wow! After our olive oil tasting at Morgenster, ramekins of vanilla ice cream were brought to the table. We were invited to drizzle lemon enhanced Morgenster olive oil on the ice cream. Are you nuts!!  Nope: Voila: The store bought, generic very ordinary ice cream was transformed into a lemony cheese cake with hints of vanilla. This was very unexpected. We assumed that the ice cream was being served as a palate cleanser, after our tasting. I can imagine the taste sensation if one combines the lemon enhanced oil with an excellent gelato. This is ice cream alchemy via Morgenster olive oil.

“A good olive oil should smell of freshly cut grass.”

I have been a big fan of Morgenster olive oil from 2004 when I was introduced to the range at a food festival at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. That led to an olive oil tasting at the Estate. I was shown how to discern a good olive oil by Idelette van den Heerlik. She told me:  “A good olive oil should smell of freshly cut grass.” Open up the bottle and sniff. Yes, there may be notes of tomato, mushroom but the general feel is freshly harvested greens and veggies. It is a heady smell.

Over 15 years later, today (February 23, 2020), Morgenster’s Werner Els took us through the oil tasting. He asked: Do you know what a good olive oil should taste like? Yes. All those years ago and I was inducted into what makes a good olive oil.

The tasting notes from van den Heerlik are ingrained in my mind. She put it beautifully: “You must smell with one nostril, then the other. The brain has two lobes, so you get two different pictures… Take a  tiny sip. Roll it over your tongue. Inhale to get the oil over your tongue. Slurp loudly.”

In that memorable olive tasting, I don’t recall the lemon enhanced oil and in February 2020, I have to thank Werner Els for revealing the wonders of lemon enhanced oil. The oil is enhanced with lemon peel – not with a faux extract – and that gives it a the lemony flavour which tastes of rind – but not overpowering so. It doesn’t mask the oil but adds to the body of flavour. In all these years, I have not tried the lemon enhanced Morgenster. This is because I have tasted other enhanced oils which taste awful and artificial.

During the tasting, we tasted three olive oils in the Morgenster range: Extra Virgin Olive, Don Carlo and the Lemon Enhanced oil. It was accompanied by balsamic vinegar which is bottled on the estate, with balsamic imported from Italy – five years matured. In terms of the different oils The Extra Virgin is a medium strength oil, delicate flavour.  Don Carlo is very intense: Notes of tomato leaf, The intensity goes well with meat marinade, says Els and dishes like chick peas lentils and game fish like tuna.  The lemon enhanced is based on a delicate oil – as noted above – brilliant with vanilla ice cream and fish like kingklip; salad dressings and pasta.

At food events, I frequently ask proprietors to let me smell the oil from closed bottles and most of them think I am crazy. There are many award winning brands and one takes a whiff and zilch – no aroma at all. Never mind the taste. Morgenster has won heaps of awards and undoubtedly it is a winner – in terms of flavour, consistency and the smell of freshly cut grass. The oils truly smell like freshly cut grass- after the rain- with a hint of lemon for the lemon enhanced and hints of tomato and mushroom for Don Carlo.

Buy at the estate or at supermarkets. Woolworths currently has an excellent special (Feb 2020).

Image credit: TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.

Travel ✈ dining advisory: Morgenster Estate

Address: Morgenster Wine & Olive Estate Vergelegen Avenue (off Lourensford Rd)
Somerset West, near Cape Town, South Africa

Tasting room opening times: Monday – Thursday and Sunday 10am-5pm; Friday and Saturday 10am–6.30pm.

Reservation for tasting room: Yes! The place is packed. For groups of six or more, e-mail: 

Call by phone: 021 852 1738

Closed two days a year: Tasting room closed on Good Friday and Christmas Day

Morgenster Estate website:

Prices for olive oil and/or wine tastings – correct February 2020

Olive oil tasting: R45- four olive oils, balsamic vinegar, olives and olive paste.

Olive oil and wine tasting: R80- olive oil tasting and Morgenster three wines

✳ There are other options – wine, olive oil tasting and food platters.