FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
A set of factors come into play throughout the process to determine the oil’s quality, from selection of the olives and the proper level of ripeness to the type of extraction and the ways the oil obtained is stored. To obtain good oil it is therefore essential we start with high quality olives.
Without a doubt, a too-low price should sound the warning bells for consumers. An intense olive taste is typical of a good quality oil, combined with more or less intense bitter or pungent sensations, which are evidence of the fresh olive flavour. There should be absolutely no defects due to bad or prolonged fruit storage, or to extraction of the oil using unsuitable oil mills.
It is the period of olive ripening when we see a change in the surface colour of the fruit from green to yellow, to reddish to violet, to deep wine red, and finally, total black. Each olive variety has its own period of ripening when the oil extracted offers the best sensory characteristics, a more intense, complex and elegant taste and a stronger, more balanced flavour.
This question is senseless, because all oils come from the first and only pressing. It is a legacy from the past, whereby a softer first pressing was sometimes carried out, followed by a second pressing. All olives have been undergoing a single pressing or extraction process for decades now.
It is a product olfactory and taste test carried out by a group of at least 8 professional tasters who, when tasting an oil, note down the type and intensity of the positive attributes (fruity, apple, grass, leaf, tomato, bitter, pungent) and of the defects (winey, musty, earthy, fusty, rancid and sediment). To be defined as extra virgin, an olive oil must not have any defects, identified as such by the majority of the tasters. However, besides the absence of defects, any two extra virgin olive oils can be very different from each other, depending on the characteristics of the more or less complex, balanced, elegant sensory profile, characteristics which make the difference between a common extra virgin olive oil and a “grand cru”, just like for common table wines and great wines.
The expressions cold extracted, cold pressed and similar guarantee that the temperature of the extraction process never exceeds 27°C. This is generally the case, except in rare cases by unprofessional oil processing facilities. However, extracting at temperatures of below 27°C is not in itself a guarantee of better quality, because if you cold press damaged olives you would still obtain a “cold-pressed oil”, but it would be of terrible quality!
No, all fats, whether of animal or plant origin, provide our body with the same number of calories: 9 kcal per gramme. However, preference should be given to Extra virgin, because of the type of fats it contains: it is rich in monounsaturated acids and low in saturated and monounsaturated fats.
Oleic acid, found in abundance in and a distinctive characteristic of olive oils, encourages the gall bladder to contract, promoting the release of bile (rapid digestion, in fact), thus minimising the formation of gallstones. Therefore, it is just an old wives’ tale that a strongly tasting extra virgin olive oil is heavy. In fact, tastier oil makes food more appetising and easier to digest; moreover, if an oil has a stronger taste, less of it is needed, which helps save money and cut down on calories.