Losing your extra virginity
How to tell if your olive oil is authentic extra virgin
There’s no shortage of exposés on the subject. A book called Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil describes this ancient Mediterranean staple as having always been a favourite of fraudsters, who take advantage of consumer unfamiliarity with genuine EVOO to sell dubious blends in its stead. An estimated 80 per cent of Italian olive oil on the market today is thought to be fake.
The Run of the Mill
One would hope certifications of provenance like PDO and IGP would be sufficient guarantee, but scandals still occur. Major Tuscan mills in our vicinity went under investigation some years ago when DNA from greek olive cultivars was found in an IGP Tuscan oil. Look for oils from smaller geographical areas and specialised mills and producers when sourcing, something supermarket chains don’t often do.
To blend or not to blend?
Some of the best EVOO in the world uses more than one olive variety, while some are monocultivar. It’s a great sign if a label lists the cultivar/s used because it signals provenance and shows a level of production detail absent from generic industrial blends.
The Taste Test
What makes a truly great extra virgin olive oil? Whether delicate, medium fruttato or fruttato intenso, it should have a balanced aroma and flavour and the presence of some bitterness and pepperiness. These flavours correspond to the antioxidant polyphenols present in the oil; those magical properties that make extra virgin both delicious and healthy. They deteriorate over time if an oil contains defects or is subject to prolonged heat and light, so always buy oil in dark bottles and display them in a cool area.
Love is Blind
Colour is not an indicator of quality. We’re all so conditioned to judge by visual cues that all tasting panels use dark glass cups.
Filtering removes microparticles of vegetable matter and water that trigger deterioration in extra virgin olive oil. We are currently developing a high antioxidant EVOO, naturally high in Vitamin E, using innovative milling methods and select cultivars. It will be on the market by Christmas 2021.
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