Selecting Olive Oil
There are many varieties of olive oil, but not all are created equal. Olive oil is classified into different types that correspond to various quality and commercial standards. In Europe, olive oil is classified by the EU (EC Reg. 1513/2001) according to analytical parameters, its method of extraction and acidity: extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, lampante olive oil, refined olive oil, olive oil, crude olive pomace oil, refined olive pomace oil and olive pomace oil.
Among them, extra virgin olive oil has the highest content of healthy polyphenols, as well as the highest nutritional value. In addition, scent, fluidity and taste also make extra virgin olive oil stand apart from other types of olive oil as a highest-quality condiment.
The Olfactory test is the best method to evaluate how good an extra virgin olive oil is, meaning that the quality may be effectively determined by its smell. A fresh scent of olives or olive leaves, as if just cut from the olive tree, should be detectable when you smell the oil. The aroma is different from edible olives. When smelling high-quality extra virgin olive oil, you may find notes of freshly cut herbs, a leaf rubbed in your hands, a green tomato, an apple or an almond.
By pouring olive oil into a glass and shaking it, one can observe its viscosity. Extra virgin olive oil has a medium to low fluidity, while high fluidity is typical of high-grade saturated fatty acids. The more the saturated fatty acid content, the more the cooking oil can damage your health, so we should try to pick oil with low-mobility. The lower the saturated fatty acid content, the lower fluidity the extra virgin olive oil possesses.
Taste is one of the best ways to determine whether extra virgin olive oil is of high quality. On the palate, the oil should be bitter and slightly spicy. It should also cause a pinching feeling in the throat, which is due to the presence of the natural polyphenols antioxidants present in extra virgin olive oil.
To conduct a tasting, a sip of extra virgin olive oil – 1/2 to 1 teaspoon is enough – should be placed on both the tongue and palate. Next, suck in some air through your mouth. There are various ways of doing this, but the goal is to spread the oil around the mouth in addition to the air helping to bring out more flavours. Breath out through your nose and with your mouth closed, to send the aromas into your nasal passages. Savour the oil for at least 20-30 seconds. This way, you can easily evaluate its smell, taste and tactile sensations (bitterness, spiciness and astringency).
Logos to check when purchasing olive oil
In order to ensure the quality of the olive oil and other agricultural products, the EU created PDO and PGI certifications to make sure that a product produced in a particular area can be recognised on the market.
PDO and DOP
PDO, or ‘Protected Designation of Origin’, is written as ‘Denominazione di Origine Protetta’ (DOP) in Italian. Only olive oils with excellent quality and credibility can obtain a PDO certification. Olive oil that qualifies for the PDO logo must be grown, produced and bottled in the designated area. It also must meet strict requirements in terms of variety, method of production and overall quality.
PGI and IGP
PGI, or ‘Protected Geographical Indication’, is written in Italian as ‘Indicazione Geografica Protetta’ (IGP). This certification usually belongs to a larger geographical area, and has slightly less stringent requirements than PDO. Olive oil with the PGI mark must have a feature that is relevant to a PGI certified area, although the link to the geographical area may be limited to a single production phase (for example, growing or processing the olives).
Organic olive oil
An olive oil certified as organic olive oil must be cultivated without the use of synthetic chemicals or GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Only organic matter and minerals can be used for fertilisation.