Still, wine isn’t the only Italian export which deserves such attention. In recent years, interest in the flavors and qualities of authentic extra virgin olive oil has grown exponentially.
The reason? Much like fine wine, the subtle flavors and qualities of authentic extra virgin olive oil are strongly influenced by terroir, and the world’s most renowned culinary artists and chefs are beginning to catch on to how these variations can add richness, interest, and depth to even the simplest of dishes.
Olive oil tastings are likewise catching on and more and more certification programs minting olive oil sommeliers are emerging. The cultivation of the understanding and enjoyment of high-quality, authentic EVOO is happening on an increasing scale.
Add to that the growing body of research supporting the health-giving properties of authentic extra virgin olive oil, and the motivation to learn and more fully enjoy Italy’s “liquid gold” is set to grow even further. Unlike wine, EVOO can be savored by more people -- without prohibition to youngsters!
But what does an EVOO sommelier do?
Through careful practice and evaluation, an EVOO sommelier can learn to identify defects present in olive oil, as well as the positive qualities which differentiate mediocre olive oil from fresh, flavorful, high-quality, authentic EVOO.
Much like wine aficionados, EVOO sommeliers learn to detect negative qualities such as rancidity, fustiness (the taste of fermentation, which indicates that the olives were not fresh when milled), and mustiness (a sign that fruits were milled on unclean equipment, or exposed to mold).
They also develop their ability to identify positive notes, attributes, and qualities characteristic of authentic extra virgin olive oil. These include fruitiness, pungency (a delightful, peppery sensation), piquancy, and bitterness — all hallmarks of the use of fresh, high-quality olive fruits in the making of the oil. They also tune their taste buds to identify the more subtle qualities offered by excellent terroir, evidenced by the presence of nutty, fruity, verdant, or grassy flavors.
Developing a sense for these attributes takes time and practice. But for those interested in benefiting from the extraordinary vitality and pleasure offered by this dynamic food, the practice of EVOO tasting is well worth the effort.
Those interested in developing their abilities can review this comprehensive list of olive oil sommelier certification programs published recently by The Olive Oil Times. Or you can get started today in your own kitchen, with Bellucci. We invite you to experience the flavor nuances present in each of the four Bellucci EVOOs: Italian, Organic, Toscano PGI Organic and Sicilia PGI Organic. Use these helpful guidelines for olive oil tasting, and pour more!