Interested in learning more about the rich tastes and flavors of Italy? You'll enjoy this great beginner's guide to olive oil tasting.
Authentic extra virgin olive oil is a hot commodity – which is why so many recent headlines have been devoted to examining the items which actually hit the shelf at your local grocers. But while it may be difficult to determine counterfeit oils by examining their packaging – truly authentic EVOO has a mouthfeel and taste which is impossible to fake.
It doesn't take an expert to discern the difference between a high-quality extra virgin olive oil and... well, everything else. If you'd like to practice the art of olive oil tasting and learn to identify EVOO like a pro, these tips are a great way to get going – and you can start now, without leaving your kitchen!
First, you'll need a glass, and some EVOO. We recommend pouring a few different types, for comparison.
What characteristics should you be looking for?
Upon pouring, you'll notice that fresh, authentic EVOO will vary in color from golden yellow to dark green. Avoid very pale or coppery oils, as these indicate the oil has been diluted with inferior oils, or oxidized in the bottling process (both of which will detract from the quality and flavor).
Notice the aroma of the oil, as these are a critical part of its flavor. Warm your glass between your hands, and swirl and sniff before tasting it.
The scents and flavors of fresh, authentic extra virgin olive oil depend on the specific olive varietals and grove in which the fruits were grown – but when practicing olive oil tasting, we generally seek the following positive notes:
- Fruity. These tones can be reminiscent of tropical fruits, as well as vegetables or nuts, such as artichoke and almond. The flavor of fruity oils is closest to that of a ripe, mature olive – and fades over time. The taste of fruity ripeness is an excellent indicator that your oil is still fresh.
- Verdant. These are “green” tones, which may taste like freshly trimmed grass, leaves, or green olives. This flavor is palatable and pleasing, and its presence confirms your oil has not oxidized.
- Peppery/Pungent. A kick of pepper is a desirable trait. You'll feel this taste at the back of your mouth or throat – and is often described as a tiny tingle or slight irritation. This peppery pungency is a positive characteristic of authentic EVOO – and a bit of an acquired taste.
- Bitterness. Extra virgin olive oil is produced from uncured olives – which means bitterness is part of the flavor profile. Though bitterness may vary between varietals, this taste will be present in to some degree in every authentic EVOO – and in fresh oils produced from ripe fruit, it will be distinct.
There are a few flavors which reveal oil of inferior quality, and should be avoided at all cost. These flavors are:
- Flat. Olive oil which tastes pale or flat may have been manipulated, or diluted with inferior oils. Those who have allergies or sensitivities to other oils should definitely avoid. Though a lack of flavor might just mean the oil has been aged by time or exposure – it also means it has lost vitality, and its health benefits have decreased.
- Rancid. The body reacts poorly to rancid oils – and for good reason. Olive oil which tastes rancid has been oxidized by exposure to light and/or air, and is no longer fresh. When consumed, rancid oils are distasteful, and may trigger nausea or indigestion.
- Metallic. Oils which taste coppery or metallic may have been improperly milled, bottled, or stored. If your oil leaves a metallic aftertaste, its quality has been compromised – and its residual flavor will prevent you from savoring the aroma and taste of your meals!
Now that you know what to look for (and what to avoid!) when olive oil tasting, you're well on your way to becoming an EVOO aficionado! Check out the video below, to follow the Bellucci tasting process from start to finish – and savor the fresh Italian flavor of authentic extra virgin olive oil.