Tasting Olive Oil
Extra-virgin olive oil must be tasted to be fully understood and appreciated. In our tasting rooms we walk our guests through the tasting experience, which is the ideal situation, but if that is not possible, here are a few professional hints for tasting extra virgin olive oil on your own.
- Pour approximately 1 ounce of oil into a glass, preferably tapered (similar to a wine glass). Cover the glass with one hand while you hold the bowl of the glass in the other hand. Ideally oil is best sampled at approximately 70° F.
- Swirl the oil to release its aromas. Uncover the glass and quickly smell the oil. Aroma is the key to the fruitiness of the oil
- Sip the oil while also taking in a bit of air. The slurping action emulsifies the oil with oxygen and spreads it throughout your mouth. Notice the oil's retro-nasal aromas and the different sensations throughout your mouth.
- Swallow the oil. Notice if there is a peppery or stinging sensation in your throat, and how long the sensation lingers.
Positive Attributes of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Fruity - Set of olfactory sensations characteristic of good (unspoiled) fresh olive fruit, either ripe or unripe. This attribute is perceived by smell, either directly or retro-nasally.
- Bitter - Characteristic of oil obtained from unripe (green) olives, this is perceived on the back of the tongue. Note that bitterness is an important part of an oils balance of flavors.
- Pungent - Peppery sensation perceived at back of the throat that is indicative of the oil’s freshness. Also a characteristic of pressing unripe olives.
Extra virgin olive oil can be used in endless ways in the kitchen. There are three distinct styles of extra virgin olive oil:
DELICATE: mild, buttery, sweet taste
- Perfect with broiled and grilled fish, hot and cold vegetable soups, sauces without garlic, cooked or steamed vegetables, meat and carpaccio, and cheeses.
MEDIUM: Fruity, “olivey” – green or ripe (grass, leaves, apple, other fruits-banana, fig)
- Compliments grilled meat and vegetables, pasta, bruschetta without garlic, sauces with garlic, and milder cheeses.
ROBUST: pungent, spicy, peppery (perceived in throat)
- Perfectly complements traditional, rustic dishes such as bruschetta with garlic, pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans), ribollita (vegetable and bread soup), and panzanella (tomato and bread salad).
About the UC Research Taste Panel
Under the direction of Paul Vossen, UC Davis' leading Ag. Advisor in olive growing and oil production for the state of California, a formal Panel of Tasters was selected after a rigorous and extensive period of training and testing. The Panel of Tasters ascertains defects as well as desirable attributes of extra virgin olive oils for the purpose of research. The tasters have undergone a training and certification program. The program follows the guidelines of the International Olive Oil Council in Madrid. The initial training at UC Davis was conducted by Paul Vossen and Juan Ramón Izquierdo; a Master Olive Oil Taster employed by Spain's Agricultural Ministry. This gifted team of tasters meets at least twice each month.
Deborah Rogers, Managing Partner and Production Manager at The Olive Press, is a trained member of the UCCE Research Taste Panel, and was a Judge at the Los Angeles County Fair Olive Oil Competition for years and a judge at the New Zealand National Olive Oil Competition 2009. She also produces the Award-Winning MARQUESA extra virgin olive oil, available only at The Olive Press.