SA Olive Awards – The Judges

SA Olive Awards judges have their work cut out

The 2021 SA Olives Awards will culminate on 9 September when the winners out of 113 Extra Virgin Olive Oils entered by 46 local producers will be announced. From 23 to 27 August the SA Olive Awards judging panel will rigorously taste, smell, scrutinise and assess the complexities of every local Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) entrant to establish the winners of bronze, silver and gold awards.

Flying in from Imperia, Italy, to lead the judging panel is olive oil authority and Panel Leader Aldo Mazzini. Aldo holds a degree in Business Economics and a Master in Coaching and Communication. He has been an official member of the ONAOO (National Olive Oil Tasters Association) panel since 2000 and graduated as Panel Leader at the Florence Chamber of Commerce in 2009. As an expert in sensory analysis and blending of EVOOs, Aldo has consulted to some of the best-known Italian olive oil brands. He was a two-time winner of the national competition “Taster of the Year” in 2000 and 2001 and has been a member of ONAOO’s International Register of Professional Tasters since 2016.

Aldo’s credentials as an olive oil expert have taken him all over the world, as a judge in many prestigious international olive oil competitions and a guest lecturer in Europe, the US and Israel. Since 2016 he organises the Masters of Olive Oil International Contest in Sanremo, Italy. He is a passionate populariser of the olive oil culture and has held several training courses for corporates and the general public.

For those wanting to learn about EVOO quality and the finesse of tasting olive oil, Aldo Mazzini will be giving a special EVOO course on 31 August 2021 at Klein Joostenberg (Stellenbosch).   Course spaces are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.  Please click here for registration and program information.

The 2021 SA Olive Awards judging panel consists of five very special ladies:

Reni Hildenbrand – a qualified Panel Leader with a long list of qualifications to her name and highly experienced olive oil taster in international competitions, Reni has been a judge on the SA Olive Awards since the very start. An olive oil producer herself, Reni has delivered numerous olive oil training courses, travelled the world of olives and authored the book “Olives and Olive Oil in South Africa”.

Jackie Loubser – from Franschhoek, Jackie began tasting olive oil informally in 2017 and soon excelled at it, becoming an Associate Savantes and being invited to join the Savantes Olive Oil Team Tasting Championships held in Spain in 2019. Jackie has served on the SA Olive organoleptic tasting panel since 2019 and was one of the judges on the 2020 SA Olive Awards.

Benedetta Lami – an Italian who grew up among Tuscany’s olive groves, Benedetta has an innate appreciation of good olive oil.  She has been a professional olive oil taster for over 13 years and has given EVOO tasting courses in both SA and Italy.   Benedetta is a Silver Associate of the prestigious Register of the EVOO Savantes and was the leader of a South African team at the 2019 Savantes Olive Oil Team Tasting Championships. She has been on the SA Olive Awards judging panel since 2009.

Marlene Loubser – a Horticulturist with a BSc Agric degree in plant breeding, plant pathology and horticulture from Stellenbsoch University, Marlene’s olfactory skills have been keenly developed over the years.  Marlene began tasting EVOO in 2016; she obtained the Associate Savantes status for three years in a row and was one of the few in the world to attain Gold Associate Savantes status.  She joined the SA Olive organoleptic tasting panel in 2018 and is proving to be a capable judge of EVOO.

Michelle Kruger – as a global brand director in the fruit industry for many years, Michelle has worked with numerous chefs and food personalities. She loves everything about olives – from the orchard to EVOO making and tasting. Her passion for olives and olive oil drives her to keep developing her knowledge.  Michelle has served on SA Olive’s organoleptic tasting panel for the past three years and is joining the SA Olive Awards judging panel for the second time.


Each EVOO entry is meticulously studied and explored for the complexities of taste, smell and texture in the search for the very best of South African Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The standard of South Africa olive oils is very high and compares well with the best EVOOs in the world, making an award received in this annual olive oil competition not only an accolade to the producer but also an assurance for consumers that they will be buying the best available in South Africa.

Editors Notes:
About the SA Olive Awards:

The SA Olive Awards, now in its 16th year, was created in 2006 to honour the South African olive oil industry. The event, a premier fixture on the South African olive industry calendar, signifies and acknowledges the culmination of hard work and the strive for excellence in our local olive oil industry. The 2021 SA Olive Awards are sponsored by leading manufacturers of olive oil extraction equipment Amenduni, MORI-TEM and Pieralisi.

The SA Olive Awards event to be held on Thursday, the 9th of September at the beautiful Webersburg Wine Estate, Stellenbosch, Western Cape.

The SA Olive Awards gold winners will be entered into the selection for the Absa Top 10 Awards, which will be taking place in October 2021.

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About SA Olive

SA Olive is an association representing the common interests of the South African olive industry and is committed to supporting a healthy future, i.e. ensuring a healthy future for its members, healthy growth and development for the industry and a healthy lifestyle for all South Africans.

Always look out for the SA Olive CTC seal on a bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). This is a seal of confidence and it’s the guarantee that the producer is ‘committed to compliance’ in quality olive oil production.  It confirms that the EVOO is 100% locally (South African) produced and is authentic Extra Virgin Olive Oil.