Factors that affect olive oil quality
- Harvesting methods
- The milling process
- Exposure to heat, air & light
- Time or age of oil
- Hygiene of equipment
The Good Burn
Put down the bread and pour directly into a glass. Swirl, smell & sip. Three positive attributes to look for during a tasting: FRUITINESS: Refers to the aroma of fresh, undamaged fruit in the oil. There are a number of positive descriptors, similar to wine (herbaceous notes, ripe and green fruit, floral and woody notes etc). BITTERNESS: A primary flavor component of fresh olives – that peppery feeling on your tongue when tasting an evoo. PUNGENCY: That burn or tickle in your throat. Those burning, sometimes intense, reactions to olive oil are a sign that the oil is made from fresh, undamaged fruit with higher concentration of polyphenols.
Trust your Tastebuds
It would take a separate workshop to unpack the flavor profiles and nuances of the defects that can occur in olive oil production and disqualify it as extra virgin grade... but the most important thing to note is that they all have unnatural qualities. Defective, lower quality oil tastes unnatural and usually leaves a greasy mouthfeel. A common defect to watch for is “fusty” oil. Fusty oil has a note of brined olives caused by improper storage of the fruit during harvest or not pressing the olives quickly enough (an anaerobic fermentation occurs). Olive oil is a fruit juice afterall, and true extra virgin olive oil will taste like things that grew on this earth: grass, nutiness, fruit notes... the list goes on. The most important thing is to try it, and trust your insticts if you can detect that vitality and freshness or if it feels old and flat.