Olive oil comes in many grades and there is an amazing diversity of flavour. Have you ever had a whiff of apples, fresh cut grass or tomato from your Extra Virgin Olive Oil? There are many positive attributes of olive oils to learn about and this knowledge will help you develop your taste preferences.
At the same time it is important to know that you are getting what you pay for. Olive oils are typically graded by professional tasting panels prior to packaging and tasters are skilled in detecting the presence or absence of faults. This tasting guide will help you to better understand these issues.
There are generally two approaches when it comes to tasting olive oil.
The first relates to trade classification of olive oils into extra virgin, virgin, ordinary and lampante. This type of tasting is geared towards detecting the presence or absence of faults and is governed by strict guidelines administered by the International Olive Oil Council in Madrid.
The second method relates more to consumer tastes and show judging. This type of tasting is all about describing the olive oil and is probably more relevant to most consumers. However, it is handy to be able to spot major defects to ensure that your favourite brands are up the quality standard you expect.
TRADE TASTING (Oil Grading)
Organoleptic panels have been accredited by the International Olive Oil Council around the world. These panels are charged with the responsibility of grading olive oils prior to being packaged and their results carry legal standing. Most are located in the EU however Australia has its own panel.
This type of tasting is all about assessing whether or not the olive oil has defects and, if it does, how many and how intense. If there are no defects then the olive oil can be classified as extra virgin. The presence of a limited number of defects renders the olive oil into a lesser category.
Whenever tasting panels do this type of work the olive oils are always chemically tested by an accredited laboratory beforehand. Extra virgin olive must meet both the chemical and organoleptic criteria for Extra Virgin Olive Oil status.
This is the sort of thing Extra Virgin Olive Oil connoisseurs do whenever they come across a new product. It's all about being able to describe the olive oil in terms of its aroma, the taste and likely uses. Many people like to describe Extra Virgin Olive Oils in terms of the flavours and aromas they can taste and smell as well as the texture of the olive oil. Descriptors like "grassy and pungent" or "sweet and fruity" are common.