10 questions about extra virgin oil

Extra virgin olive oil tasting is very similar to wine tasting: you need to smell the oil and then put it in your mouth and savour it as you do for wine. You need to appreciate the typical notes of fruitiness, the bitter and the spicy. These are the main characteristics of EVO oil. The other thing to note is the absence of defects, such as “rancid”. Differently from wine, the color doesn’t say much about the quality of the oil. The color can range from yellow gold to green but the color doesn’t determine the quality.

1) What are the qualities of extra virgin olive oil?

Extra virgin olive oil, one of the most beneficial foods for our health. Regular use helps to reduce the amount of so-called “bad” cholesterol (LDL) while increasing the presence of “good” cholesterol. Another benefit of the best extra virgin olive oil? The reduction of blood pressure and, consequently, a slowdown in the ageing of cells.

Preferring the cheapest bottle almost always means making the wrong choice. Be wary of low cost offers, instead check the cost per liter and, of course, the label.

2) Why is extra virgin fat the healthiest fat?

The fat contained in the extra virgin oil is the healtiest because is rich in unsaturated fats and polyphenols which are antioxidants that help your body to keep young. It doesn’t contain cholesterol as cholesterol is present only in animal origin food.

Extra virgin olive oil also contains a good amount of vitamins E and K in each serving. Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that doubles as an antioxidant.

The quantity of antioxidant contained in the oil depends on the quality of the oil, therefore we recommend choosing a high quality extra virgin oil from a trusted olive oil mill.

3) How to choose a good EVO oil?

Because the laws do not required the extra virgin olive oil producers to write on the bottle labels important pieces of information such as date of harvest, date of production and acidity, you’ll need to actually taste the oil to understand if it’s good or not. Or buy an oil that is certified and evaluated by experts in international contests.

The tasting of the extra virgin olive oil to understand the characteristics is call sensory analysis.

Sensory analysis, a relatively recent science, evaluates the characteristics of a food product that interact with our sense organs and, for each of these, identifies particular descriptors that identify and quantify it.

In order to describe the taste of the EVO oil you need to know what taste a good EVO oil should have. It’s like a vocabulary of taste, sents and feelings that you need to know and you need to “perceive” all these characteristics when you taste a high quality EVO oil.

4) How much should I pay for a good extra virgin olive oil?

The price of the extra virgin olive oil can vary from year to year depending on the climate conditions and therefore the amount of olives harvested. Generally speaking the minimum price you can pay to order a high quality extra virgin from Italy is 15 Euros or 15 USD per litre if you buy oil in a tin in a 3 or 5 litre can. If you buy smaller quantities or glass bottles the price goes up to 30 Euros or Dollars per liter. If you want an award winning extra virgin you may spend even more.

5) Can I fry with extra virgin?

Yes, it is absolutely preferable to use extra virgin oil to fry and shallow fry. The smoke point of olive oil, or the temperature at which a food fat is heated to high temperatures si oxidizes and degrades, is about 195 ° C / 198 ° C. Being a monounsaturated fat, rich in oleic acid, it therefore degrades more slowly due to the effect of heat. L’extra virgin olive oil, also cooked, therefore continues to guarantee antioxidant properties, maintaining its role as the main source of good fats in the diet. Compared to other vegetable oils the high quality extra virgin olive oil it is absolutely the best ingredient even in the cooking phase

6) What food can I use extra virgin with?

For a healthy and rich in flavour diet you can use extra virgin either raw or cooked. The important is that you don’t heat it over the smoke temperature (see next question).

7) What is the smoke temperature of extra virgin?

The smoke point of olive oil, or the temperature at which a food fat is heated to high temperatures si oxidizes and degrades, is about 195 ° C / 198 ° C.

Good qualities of the EVO oil

BITTER:characteristic and intense in oils obtained from green olives.
PUNGENT:spicy aftertaste sensation, intense in oils particularly rich in beneficial antioxidant substances.
SWEET AND BITTER ALMOND:characteristic aftertaste that recalls the fruit of the same name.
FLORAL:very pleasant sensation that recalls the penetrating scent of flowers.
FRUITY:perception of the typical taste of a healthy and fresh olive.
HERBAL:particular fruity nuance that recalls the scent of freshly cut grass.
GREEN TOMATO:fragrance reminiscent of the fruit of the same name, typical of oils of particular origin (eg Sicily).
WOODY:sensation that recalls the smell of the wood of the undergrowth (typical in Umbria oils).
BODY:tactile sensation of compactness typical of a quality oil.
COLOR FROM GREEN TO YELLOW:one or the other may prevail depending on the area of ​​origin, the extraction technology, the ripeness of the fruits but without any influence on the quality of the oil.

Defects present in lower quality extra-virgin olive oils

WINE, INACET:smell perceived in oils obtained from badly preserved olives in which the sugars have fermented forming alcohol or vinegar.
MOLD:present in oils obtained from olives stored in a warm and humid environment; remembers the smell of bread mold.
EARTH:typical smell of oils obtained from olives picked from the ground; remembers the smell of the air in the first moments of rain.
HEATING:smell perceived in oils obtained from fermented olives; slightly reminiscent of cheese.
PHENIC ACID:characteristic odor frequent in bad oils originating from Spanish Andalusia. (the so-called “cat pee” smell)
RANCID:typical odor of any fat that has gone bad (eg yellowed ham fat).
OILY:tactile aftertaste sensation of an oil that is “sticky” on the palate.
RED REFLECTIONS:present in a badly preserved oil and in particular not protected from light.
Defects

Step by step olive olive oil tasting

  • Smell the oil and verify the fruitiness of EVO oil
  • Put a little in your mouth and appreciate the bitter, sweet and spicy flavour and the other qualities.
  • Evaluate the notes of grass, artichoke and other vegetables
  • Verify the absence of defects such as mold, wine and rancid.

In the photos below you can see Filippo Legnaioli, president of the Frantoio Del Grevepesa and professional EVO oil taster, tasting the olive oil with the blue glass. The EVO tasting is done generally with a dark glass to avoid being influenced by the color of the oil.

How much should I pay for high quality EVO oil?

The cost per litre of high quality oil ranges from 15 Euros per litre to 30 Euros per litre or more. Above 30 Euros per litre you find special selection EVO oils like award winning

What are the differences between extra virgin olive oil and organic extra virgin olive oil?

The term “organic farming” indicates a cultivation method that only allows the use of substances present in nature, excluding the use of chemical synthesis substances (fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides). Organic farming means developing a production model that avoids the excessive exploitation of natural resources, in particular the soil, water and air, instead using these resources within a development model that can last over time. Organic extra virgin olive oil is therefore obtained from an agronomic practice that involves the cultivation of olive trees in compliance with these practices. Not only. During the process of transforming the olives into oil it is necessary that the various activities (washing the olives, pressing, kneading, filtration, etc.) take place without any contamination, or following a dedicated path.

How to recognize a high quality EVO oil?

The quality of an oil is essentially defined by its organoleptic characteristics, that is, by its olfactory and gustatory notes. An oil to be called extra virgin olive oil must not only be free from defects, but must have well perceptible fruity notes. A quality EVO is fresh to the scent, with clearly distinguishable characteristics that recall the plant world (grass, tomato, aromatic plants, etc). The taste is pleasant in the mouth, has notes of bitter and spicy with varying intensity depending on the variety of olives from which it is obtained and their degree of ripeness

Why is extra virgin fat the healthiest fat?

The fat contained in the extra virgin oil is the healtiest because is rich in unsaturated fats and polyphenols which are antioxidants that help your body to keep young. It doesn’t contain cholesterol as cholesterol is present only in animal origin food.
Extra virgin olive oil also contains a good amount of vitamins E and K in each serving. Vitamin E is an essential nutrient that doubles as an antioxidant.

Can I fry with extra virgin?

Yes, it is absolutely preferable to use extra virgin oil to fry and shallow fry. The smoke point of olive oil, or the temperature at which a food fat is heated to high temperatures si oxidizes and degrades, is about 195 ° C / 198 ° C. Being a monounsaturated fat, rich in oleic acid, it therefore degrades more slowly due to the effect of heat. L’extra virgin olive oil, also cooked, therefore continues to guarantee antioxidant properties, maintaining its role as the main source of good fats in the diet. Compared to other vegetable oils the high quality extra virgin olive oil it is absolutely the best ingredient even in the cooking phase

Discover the best Italian EVO oils

There are several producer of EVO oil of high quality in Italy. From the North of Italy to the south you can find excellent extra virgin olive oil brands. The most popular are probably the EVO from Tuscany and from Puglia.

My recommendation is to buy directly from the olive oil mills or choose the brands that you know produce a high quality EVO oil, for example the Frantoio del Grevepesa is an excellent EVO oil producer from the Chianti Region in Tuscany and they ship almost worldwide.

There are a couple of guides you can read to choose your oil: Merum and Oli D’Italia.

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