In an interview with Olive Oil Times, Yogesh Verma, COO of state-run Rajasthan Olive Cultivation Limited (ROCL) and independent olive growing expert Yuval Chen explained more about their bold move into winemaking.
The olive wine initiative will transform the lives of impoverished farmers as post pruning waste will provide an additional source of income for Rajasthan’s olive growers.
“No other olive producing countries have developed olive wine,” Verma said and outlined how the initiative would benefit impoverished local farmers by improving the economy of the crop.
“The olive wine initiative will transform the lives of Rajasthan’s olive farmers as post pruning waste will provide an additional source of income netting farmers $0.90 per kilogram ($1.98 per pound).” According to Verma, this was actually greater than the value of olive oil for the state’s farmers and would also boost Rajasthan’s tourism-based economy.
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The duo spoke passionately about their olive wine, which will be hand-crafted in Rajasthan from leaves of the desert state’s 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) of olive trees and marketed as an exclusive Rajasthani beverage.
While Verma hinted that the liquor was made from a variety of olive leaves he insisted that the exact recipe remained a closely guarded secret until the product was patented.
“The patenting process has been started and production of olive wine will commence as soon as the patent has been registered,” he said. “Professional sommeliers will be testing the olive wine to ensure it meets the government of India’s exacting wine standards.”
Verma added that he was personally impressed by the flavor of the olive wine and foresaw it being consumed, “just like any other glass of wine.” He believes that the beverage could become commercially available within a year and may attract interest from the global wine industry.
The duo claimed that studies on the product indicated that the nutraceutical olive wine offered many of the same health benefits as olive oil including improving heart health and lowering cholesterol. Verma believes the beverage has the potential to become a natural remedy for a number of health conditions and may even reduce the growth of skin cancer.
“Polyphenols found in the leaves are believed to protect against cancer and other inflammation related diseases whilst the high levels of antioxidants are considered beneficial for preventing diabetes and delaying cell aging,” he said. Further research on the olive wine’s purported health benefits will be carried out by Tripura, Jiwaji and Manipal universities.
Chen has lent his expertise to the development of India’s olive industry since 2009 and described Rajasthan with its short winters as, “one of the globe’s most challenging climates for olive cultivation.”
He said farmers had battled challenging weather conditions with low chilling hours during the winters of 2016/17 and 2017/18, following ten years of favorable olive cultivating conditions.
Verma said his 2017 initiative of producing olive leaf tea in Rajasthan had been a success with local farmers now providing sufficient leaves for the operation of three large factories, which manufacture olive tea that is sold around the world.
From its first tentative step into olive cultivation twelve years ago, ROCL’s olive enterprise has extended to encompass 1,000 hectares (2,471 acres) of olive groves, which have to date produced twelve tons of olive oil marketed under the brand name of RajOlive.
The duo expressed gratitude to the government of Rajasthan for funding the research and development of the project which is a joint venture between the government of Rajasthan, Pune-based Finolex Palsson Industries and Israel’s Indolive Limited.
Future projects in Rajasthan’s olive pipeline include the manufacture of olive vinegar and cosmetics produced from vitamin E and oleuropein-rich olive leaves to increase value.