Olive Oil - Guide to the Perplexed - Part 1 out of 101


In order to become a certified olive oil taster there are various things that need to be achieved.
One of which, not surprisingly, being able to distinguish between various grades of olive oil. For example, Extra Virgin and Virgin.
This is of course the easy bit, but the most important aspect for the governing board (organizing official tasting) giving its authoritative stamp of approval for a certain grade.

The attributes of Virgin Olive Oil (VOO) are classified into two categories.

Positives and Defects

The positive attributes tends to represent the primary state of the raw material, that is to say the olives on the tree. There are three positive attributes, one of which is fruitiness.

The defects reflect the damaged conditions of the olives, bad management (e.g. the olives waited for too long before getting pressed, causing them to ferment), the very extraction process it self could be damaged and even the storage of the olive oil.

Without any doubt the most important positive aspect of VOO is its fruitiness.
It is not just the frame or the background of a picture but the image and lively colors of the VOO.
Have you ever smelled any raw soy oil? What about sunflower oil? The fruitiness of the VOO is not the only difference to other vegetable and animal oils, but a main difference none the less.

In the lectures the fruitiness was defined as “Set of the olfactory perceptions characteristic of the oil which depends on the variety and comes from sound, fresh olives, either ripe or unripe. It is perceived directly or through the back of the nose”‏.

The fruitiness of the olive oil can be simple or complex depending on the quality of the olive (only for competitions). The complexity of it will enrich our experience ultimately decide whether we classify it as edible or not, it lies at the heart of it’s very quality, although not alone.

According to my experience the complexity of olive oil is on par perhaps only with tea.
However, you are likely to find more frequently “green apples”, “green tomatoes”, “strawberries”, “banana”, “almonds”, “artichoke” and “rosemary” in good extra virgin olive oil than in your cup of tea (unless its flavored :-).

A question one might be tempted to ask in Q&A is perhaps “how to we grade an olive oil with no defects and no fruitiness?”

The fruitiness of the VOO depends on various factors which will be dealt with separately but here are a few to mention: olive variety, maturity degree, irrigation and how the olives were picked. Some of you might still remember the “Green” and “Yellow” olive oils I sent and how different their aromas (and taste) were where the main difference was the degree of maturity.

The other components of the flavor i.e. tactile and kinesthetic perceptions perceived in the oral cavity can be for example bitterness, kernelled, body, viscosity, astringent and “in mouth” fruitiness.

It is important to note that exceptional aggressiveness in say pungency and bitterness is not considered a defect! However, it does affect the way we judge the olive oil in competitions and even on the label.

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