Grading and Tasting Olive Oil

Depending on its place of origin and the variety of olives used , olive oil has a wide range
of flavors and fragrances. The consumer should choose and purchase the type that best
suits his/her particular taste, as well as keeping in consideration the type of food it will be
used to prepare. Extra virgin olive oil is like fine wine. Its taste and aroma can be easily distinguished by
the nose and the palate, then discussed and dissected.
A series of requirements are declared on national and international regulations to identify
Trade Standards for olive oils. The quality is measured in two steps: acidity evaluation and
taste test.
According to the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC), these are the categories:
1)VIRGIN OLIVE OIL is the oil obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by
mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions,
which do not lead to the alteration of the oil. This product will not had undergone any
treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifuging and filtering. When virgin olive oil is
intended for consumption in its natural state, it is called by one of the following
a- Extra Virgin Olive Oil has a maximum acidity of 1% and organoleptic            
characteristics stipulated in the standards for this category;
b- Virgin Olive Oil has a maximum acidity of 2% and organoleptic                      
characteristics stipulated in the standards for this category;
c- Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil has a maximum acidity of 3% and organoleptic        
characteristics stipulated in the standards for this category;
d- Lampante Virgin Olive Oil has more than 3.3% of acidity and organoleptic    
characteristics stipulated in the standards for this category. It is not fit for consumption in
its original state and should be refined prior to its use as a food stuff.
2)REFINED OLIVE OIL is obtained from virgin olive oils, generally Lampante, by refining
methods that do not alter the initial glyceride structure of the oil.
3)OLIVE OIL is a specific foodstuff term for a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oil
fit for consumption as is.
When you buy olive oil, consider how you will use it, how it will enhance your cooking
style. For dipping and drizzling or for dishes such as salad, pasta, red meat or grilled
vegetables, you may opt for a full bodied, big flavored oil. Note the nose and background
flavor of the olive oil you choose, which can vary from tomato (typical of oils produced in
Sicily) to artichoke (Tuscany and central regions of Italy).
Try the olive oil on different foods and determine if it enhances your food or if it is too
overpowering – as may be the case with a delicate fish, for example. Choose the right oil
as you would choose the right fine wine to pair with your food!
An official extra virgin olive oil tasting is performed after the chemical test to determine if
the oil meets certain standards. The tasters must follow rules of conduct that have been
established by the IOOC.
Anyone can learn to taste well. You can replicate at home the same procedure that
professional olive oil tasters follow to judge olive oil.
To start your tasting experience, you will need a small plastic cup, a bottle of olive oil
and a glass of water. You will have a better result if you don't drink coffee or smoke at
least 30 minutes before the time set for your test and if you don't use any perfume,
cosmetic or soap whose scent could linger during the test.
We recommend using at least three or four different olive oils made with different
species of olives to discover an array of flavors and intensities. You will find many different
varieties of olives used in the selection offered by Olio&Olive.
Pour just a small quantity of olive oil in the cup (enough to cover the bottom), hold the cup
top and bottom between your hands to warm it slightly and swirl it for at least one minute.
Remove your hand and smell the oil. Keep in mind that extra virgin olive oil should smell
and taste of the fruit from which it is should be fruity and smell of olives, fresh
cut grass, aromatic herbs or fresh fruit - all of which are considered positive attributes.
If these aromas are not present, it is possible that the olive oil is flat, poor quality or has
gone bad. These undesirable aromas can be described as rancid, old, metallic, musty,
humid or fusty.  If you recognize one of these undesirable odors, you should not proceed
with the tasting as your palate will be affected by these flavors (and you will need that
glass of water!).
If the aroma is good and you recognize the positive attributes, take a tiny sip and let it
work in your mouth. Swirl it around and suck in air to oxygenate the oil. Taste it some
more and then swallow. Take notes on your sensations and impressions.
Remember that every extra virgin olive oil will affect your taste buds differently and each
flavor sensation will come about quicker or slower, so...let it get to work!
Do you like the taste? Is it light or heavy? Does it increase in intensity of flavor as you
hold it on your tongue? Is it pungent, peppery, bitter? Is it grassy, fruity, oily?
Here a few important elements you'll find in both cases of a delicious olive oil or a very
poor quality one(green is desirable - red is udesirable):
Almond: a flavor which reminds one of artichoke.
Astringent: A puckering sensation in the mouth created by tannins
Bitter: Many new to olive oil are surprised to find that this is a preferred characteristic
of olive oils; usually obtained from green olives or olives turning color.
Fresh: Good aroma, fruity, not oxidised
Fruity: an oil is fruity when its flavor and aroma are similar to that of a
mature olive. If you have stood over the olive grinder or press, fruity is
what you smell.  Many oils initially seem fruity. This characteristic  may
disappear in a few months in some oils, a truly fruity oil maintains this
characteristic aroma through time.
Green: A young, fresh, fruity oil. Often mixed with bitter. Spicy-bitter cough
sensation at the back of the throat.
Green leaf:  a sensation obtained when in the press a small quantity of
fresh olive leaves are added.  This is a trick which is done to approximate the
genuine green taste of green olives
Harmonious: all the qualities of the oil blend and work well with each other
Hay: Dried grass flavor
Musky, nutty, woody: trace characteristics which are very pleasing when not overpowering.
Peppery   A peppery bite in the back of the throat which can force a cough
Pungent: A rough, burning or biting sensation in the throat - peppery
Soave: mature olives can produce this characteristic.  
Rotund: is said of an oil with a pasty body to it which fills and satisfies without
aromatic character - always from mature olives.
Tomato: a flavor which reminds one of tomato.
Bitter: a good trait in moderation but bad if overpowering.  Produced by olives that are
unripe and with little meat.
Burnt: prolonged heating during processing
Dirty: oils which have absorbed the unpleasant odors and flavors of the vegetable water
after pressing which they have remained in contact for too long.
Earthy This term is used when oil has acquired a musty humid odor because
it has been pressed from unwashed, muddy olives.
Flat Oils which have lost their characteristic aroma and have no taste.
Frozen: due to olives which have been exposed to freezing
temperatures. When cooked, this oil gives off very unpleasant odors.
Fusty: due to olives fermenting in piles while in storage waiting for pressing
Greasy - a diesel, gasoline or bearing grease flavor
Grubby: flavor imparted by grubs of the olive fly
Heated: prolonged heating during processing, burnt taste
Impersonal: a serious defect for virgin oil, because it means it has neither
character nor personality. It is a trait common in all manipulated oils.
Lampantino: oil which should be sent to a refinery. When it does not
present awful organic characteristics, it can be edible.
Musty: moldy flavor from being stored too long before pressing
Metallic Oils processed or stored  with extended contact to metal surfaces.
Moldy: from unhealthy or fermented olives due to excessive storage in
Olearic Fly: oil from fruit stricken by this insect: the flavor is both rotten
and putrid at the same time.
Poor conservation: the oil absorbs the odors and flavors of everything
surrounding it even if not in direct contact. A very common defect.
Rancid   Old oils which have started oxidizing due to exposure to light or air.
Winey High acidic taste