Extra virgin olive oil is used in practically every dish containing fish, vegetables, meats, sauces and pastas in Italy. It is also wonderful raw, as an accompaniment to bruschetta, on salads and more. The aromas and sensations of extra virgin olive oil are so intense that there are not professional olive oil tasters and tastings, and one can even become an extra virgin olive oil sommelier. How do you taste an extra virgin olive oil? The process can be divided into three phases: the smell test, the taste test and the visual test. Just like that of wine. The only difference is with olive oil, you finish with the visual test whereas with wine, you begin with it.
Smell Test Let’s begin with the nose. Pour the oil into a colored glass and cover the top with the palm of your hand. The other hand rotates around the glass in order to heat up the oil. The content should heat to about 80°F. You obviously won’t be carrying a thermometer with you, so just know that in order to get to that temperature, your hand must rotate around the cup for about 4 minutes. Bring the olive oil up to your nose. A good oil should have hints of tomato, almonds, artichoke, a whole range of herbaceous aromas and is sure to change, depending on the product.
Taste Test You are now ready for the taste test. Place the glass close to your mouth and let a bit of oil settle on your tongue. Not too much. Do not swallow it right away. The oil should rest on your taste buds, all the while smelling the and breathing in the aromas to make sure you are receiving the aromas both from your mouth and nose. The consistency and fluidity of the oil, both tactile sensations, are the first to be evaluated. Then there is the taste analysis. A good extra virgin olive oil should leave you with a vague and pleasant spicy sensation.
Visual Test This is the last stage – the visual analysis. The parameters that we are evaluating are clarity, density and color. The first will depend on the filtration process the oil went through. Non-limpid oils are often considered of poor quality, but this is not entirely true. It can simply mean that we are dealing with a “raw”, unfiltered oil. The density of the oil varies from territory to territory. Oils from Southern Italy for example are on average lighter and more fragrant, while those of Central Italy, such as Tuscany are more aromatic and spicier with longer persistence. These are ideal for raw preparatins. Finally, the color will vary according to the origin of the olives and range from golden yellow to deep green.