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Guide to tasting
Autenthic Expression of a Territory

What is an “EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL”?

Extra virgin olive oil is the only food whose commercial trade value and its quality is determined by an objective organoleptic (tasting) assessment method, estabilished by the International Olive Council (IOC) and regulated by the European regulation 2568/91. This assessment method is based on panels of officially trained tasters (panel) that recognize the absence and/or presence of specific positive and negative (defective) attributes linking both smelling and tasting. .

To have the definition of “extra virgin olive oil” an oil sample must meet both chemical and organoleptic (bitter, pungent, fruity) standards that include the absence of flavor defects (i.e. median of defects = 0) and the trait of fruity (median of fruity attribute greater than 0). Together with these organoleptic standards it has to correspond to chemical characteristics fixed for this category, among them the main ones are listed below.

Commodity classification of virgin olive oils laid down by EU Reg. 61/2011

Parameters of classification of olive oil Acidity(%) N. peroxides (meqO2 / kg) K232 K270 ΔK Sensory evaluation Median of defects (Md) ) Sensory evaluation Median of fruity (Mf)
EXTRA VIRGIN ≤ 0,8 ≤ 20 ≤ 2,5 ≤ 0,22 ≤ 0,01 Md=0 Mf>0
VIRGIN 0,8-2 ≤ 20 ≤ 2,6 ≤ 0,25 ≤ 0,01 Md≤3,5 Mf>0
LAMPANTE > 2 > 20 > 2,6 > 0,25 > 0,01 Md>3,5 -
"talìa"
"sciaurìa"
"tasta"

Visual perception

The colour and the turbidity of an extra virgin olive oil are not indicators of the oil's flavour or of its quality. In fact they are not addressed during a sensory assessment. According to the International Olive Council (COI), the glasses used in a scientific assessments are specific blue glasses that obscure the colour of the oil in order to prevent the tester from having preconceptions about the flavour of the oil before actually smelling or tasting it. Contrary to the common belief, a dark green and cloudy olive oil doesn't necessarily mean it is a robust and genuine oil.

Olfactory perception

Sensory evaluation starts with the olfactory analysis. The assessment begins holding the glass in one palm in order to warm the extra virgin olive oil sample until the ideal temperature of 28°C. The other hand covers the glass while swirling the olive oil to release its aroma. Flavours described as floral and grassy, smell of unripe (green) or ripe olives are indicators of proper harvest time, proper handling of olives during harvest (fresh fruits), not prolonged storage prior to milling, correct milling conditions (sanitary equipment, cold temperatures), and proper storage after milling.

Tasting

The second step is the tasting of the oil by slurping. This step consists in sipping a small amount of extra virgin olive oil into the mouth while “sipping” some air as well. Moreover, this technique will reveal additional specific positive attributes as the amount of bitterness on our tongues and the intensity of the pungency. The pungency and the bitterness in extra virgin olive oil represent two parameters of quality and due to the presence of healthy polyphenol content (antioxidants), tocopherol (vitamin E) and Oleuropein they are indicators for an overall evaluation of high quality.

These parameters are often interpreted incorrectly. Most consumers associate the pungency with acidity considering these characteristics as defects. No one can determine the acidity only by tasting the olive oil. Chemical analysis made in a specific laboratory is needed. Generally, stronger pungency and bitterness are related to very low acidity because they are proof of an extra virgin olive oil produced from healthy olives picked at the right level of maturity using the correct techniques for collecting, processing and preservation.

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