How To Recognize Good Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Good olive oil has a fresh, vibrant flavour. Extra Virgin Olive Oil is considered to be the highest quality olive oil and the only one in its category that improves heart function and contains anticancer, anti-aging, and anti-oxidative components. Just as important, it tastes wonderful.

It owes its amazing flavour to:

  • Over one hundred, scientifically-identified aroma compounds (and many more awaiting to be named).
  • Phenolic compounds—which are unique to olive oil—and contribute to the characteristic bitter taste and brief, spicy sensation of good, extra virgin olive oil.

According to the European Regulation (EC/No640/2008: EEC No.2568/91), there are three main characteristics one should look for when assessing olive oil.

  • Fruitiness: a range of scents (mainly dependent on cultivar, degree of maturity at harvest, and processing conditions). This is a characteristic of olive oil that comes from fresh olive fruit (green or ripe) and is perceived as a strong scent when smelling the oil and /or as a flavour when tasting the oil.
  • Bitterness: a primary taste felt at the upper part of the mouth and tongue, mainly a characteristic of olive oil that comes from green olives.
  • Pungency: a peppery sensation felt at the back of the throat—a characteristic of olive oil produced at the beginning of the season, mainly from olives that are harvested while still green. 

How To Choose An Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Check the date of harvest or the expiry date “Best by…”

In order for extra virgin olive oil to retain all its nutritional characteristics, it has to be fresh. Olive oil that is past its “best by” date tastes rancid and lacks its major nutritional and flavour characteristics. Select olive oils with harvest dates from the most recent season.

  • Packaging

Choose an Extra Virgin Olive Oil that features dark or non-transparent packaging. This helps to protect it from light. Light, oxygen and heat are the three biggest enemies of olive oil, as they compromise its taste and nutritional characteristics.

  • Way of Pressing

Choose an Extra Virgin Olive Oil that has been cold-pressed. Cold-pressing means that the temperature throughout the processing stages hasn’t exceed 27degrees Celsius. This helps olive oil to retain its nutritional characteristics, taste and aroma.

  • Read the label

From the label you can learn a lot about the quality of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. For example, if the label indicates that the olive oil is PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) or PGI (Protected Geographical Indicator), this means that it has been produced according to the Standards of the European Union. The note “Country of Production” has to be clearly visible and the name of the variety/varieties used is a good hint of attention to quality. Awards received in international taste competitions is another indication of good quality.

  • Choose the taste you like

As you would with a wine, choose an Extra Virgin Olive Oil that best suits your flavour preferences and the meal you are preparing.

Extra Virgin Olive Oils described as “early harvest”, “full-bodied” or “peppery” best accompany full-flavoured dishes. On the other hand, extra Virgin Olive Oils described as “mild taste” or “mild fruitiness” go really well with fine-flavoured dishes. 

Myths & Truths About Extra Virgin Olive Oil

  • Olive Oil is not good for frying

Actually, olive oil can be used for frying.  Due to the plethora of antioxidant components it contains—such as phenolics and tocopherols— Extra Virgin olive oil is more stable than other edible oils. (It should be noted that oil which cannot withstand high temperatures, decays into substances which are bad for our health.) For example, it is confirmed that the overall quality of vegetables or meat is improved when fried with extra virgin olive oil, because they are enriched with the phenols present in the oil.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil remains stable at 210o C, while frying usually takes place at around 180oC.

  • Light Oils have fewer calories

There is no such thing as “Light Extra Virgin olive oil”. A light-colored olive oil, with yellow-green hues, is neither lower in calories nor lighter in taste than a dark green olive oil. All fats and oils, including olive oil, have 9 calories per gram.

  • All olive oils are equally healthy

Not quite, as they are not all of equal quality. Extra Virgin olive oil is considered to be the very best in quality. And amongst Extra Virgin olive oils, the ones with more antioxidants and flavour are healthier, due to a higher content of nutritious components. A high-quality, Extra Virgin olive oil always has an outstanding flavour.