All extra virgin olive oil is not created equal – here’s why

Just like wine and coffee, some brands or labels are just OK, some are a bit better, and then there are quality products that stand out as being far superior to the rest. It’s the same with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).

We like to buy the best that we can afford and we are happy to pay a little extra when the difference is very noticeable and delivers more pleasure to our taste buds.

Many people do not know what great EVOO tastes like but once they discover it, they never turn back.

Why some EVOO tastes so different from others – and much, much better

 The factors that matter to our senses are called organoleptic properties and they are:
  • Taste – great olive oil is full of fresh natural flavours and has a bitter pepperiness that catches at the back of your throat because of its polyphenols (antioxidants). You just know that you are tasting the best that nature has to offer. This is especially evident when, say, dipping bread in top quality EVOO. Just try dipping it in ordinary cooking oil or a cheap supermarket olive oil by comparison!

  • Aroma – Our sense of smell is a very powerful pleasure centre and premium EVOO has a fruity bouquet of fresh, green olives. Delicious, and gets you salivating immediately.

  • Colour – EVOO may be green or more golden, depending on whether the oil came from an early or late harvest. Great EVOO is rarely pale – that is usually the sign of refined olive oil, or one that has been blended with other types of cooking oil.

Read more about what great EVOO tastes like here and in this EVOO tasting guide.

What makes our artisan EVOO better than the average supermarket product?

There are several factors involved that add up to a superb EVOO:

  • Mono-varietal – Meaning it is made from a single, great variety of olives. Just like great whisky is called “single malt”. Read a scientific analysis of Italian mono-varietal EVOO.

  • Olive Variety – Some varieties like our Gentile Nera are cultivated for their exceptionally high content of healthy substances and its wonderful flavour.

  • Low acidity – Acid content must be equal or less than 0.8%.

  • Not a Blend – The best EVOO is not blended – and why should it be? Why would you want to dilute the superb taste and aroma of a great olive oil? Blending may work for wines and coffee but it’s only poor quality olive oil that needs to be blended with better quality EVOO to improve it. Low grade olive oil can never be as good as a single variety that has been nurtured for generations by farmers who know and love that olive.

  • Age – Extra Virgin Olive Oil is at its best when consumed young. Heat and light reduce its quality.

The reality of blended olive oil products

Go into any supermarket and the shelves are packed with well-known labels. This business depends on producing vast quantities of olive oil, far more than can be obtained from one region. In fact, supermarket olive oil is often sourced from many countries.
 
The organoleptic properties are not very important to these producers because they supply the mass market. It means that a blended olive oil is never as tasty as a mono-varietal olive oil.
Blended olive oil may not even be 100% olive oil, never mind genuine Extra Virgin olive oil. Sometimes bottles labelled as EVOO are mixtures containing other much cheaper oils such as canola, safflower , grapeseed, soybean and cheap refined olive oil. Even chlorophyll, the substance that makes leaves green, has been added to improve the colour!

Don’t forget what ‘extra virgin’ means

Extra virgin is the purest form of olive oil. It’s often called Cold Pressed, First Press, or First Cold Pressed. It is the authentic and 100% natural juice of the olive fruit from the first pressing only. That process uses centrifuge equipment these days. Nothing is added or taken away and the temperature is controlled to be below 27°C (33°F) to ensure that its properties do not degrade.

Also Extra Virgin must meet extremely high standards of taste, aroma and colour. These are set by the International Olive Council (IOC).

Olive oil called Virgin is extracted in a second pressing and is quite different from Extra Virgin.

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