Chile is a country traditionally known to Americans for seafood and recently for wine, but rarely for olive oil.
Dawn Foster is out to change that perception. The Atlanta-based entrepreneur is importing single-varietal olive oils from Las Doscientas, located 150 miles south of Santiago in Chile’s Maule Valley. The estate was founded in 2001 by Juan Fernando Waidele, also a vintner, and named for the 200 plots of farmland that were joined together to compose the property. Las Doscientas produced its first crop in 2005. The olives are harvested by hand, and the oil is made using modern, state of the art technology.
Consumers who are unaccustomed to single-varietal oils will find these to be far more rich, dramatic and distinctive than the extra virgin oil they currently use. Both are made from popular olive varieties found in Spain, The Arbequina is lush and fruity, with an enticing nose and overtones of bell pepper and tomato; it finishes with a bracing tang of green olives. The Picual is just the opposite—high-toned and spicy, with an assertive, peppery mouth feel. Both cost $17.99 for a 500-ml bottle.
Foster also imports a range of handmade jams and chutneys called Huerto Azul (or “blue orchard,’ named for the volcanic site where the products are grown at Villarrica in Southern Chile). They are the work of artisan Patricia Martini, who began making them for friends and opened her own factory ten years ago. Pear Jam in Merlot is sweet and concentrated, perfect for spreading on toast in the morning. Onion Jam in Merlot is thick in texture and earthy in flavor, good for canapés at the cocktail hour. There’s also Fig Chutney with Merken, a native spice mixture made from coriander seeds and smoky chili. It’s unctuous in the mouth and has a fiery bite on the finish—a nice foil for roasted meats or rich cheeses. All three sell for $9.99 for a 7.4 ounce jar.
Currently, the Las Doscientas oils and Huerto Azul jams and chutneys are available in nearly 30 states, featured in the Fresh Market locations as well as specialty retailers.