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Like drops of excellent wine and olive oil transform your meals, drops of knowledge can forever enhance your culinary pleasures.
Olive Oil Tasting:
Tasting olive oil helps us determine the oil quality and health benefits, without relying on anything else but our palates. In fact, low quality in olive oil shows up as undesirable aromas and flavors easy to detect with a simple tasting. These aromas and flavors are considered undesirable because they are the sign that something went wrong in one of the stages of the production. An olive oil with undesirable aromas and flavors is a defective product that never had or no longer has all the proprieties that encourage good health. For this reason, learning how to taste olive oil and setting our palates to recognize defective products is a must in a world where there is so much confusion and not enough regulation.
Olive Cultivars:
Exactly like grapes (for example, Chardonnay or Merlot), olives come in different varietals (or cultivars). Cultivars can potentially produce oils with different aromas and flavors (or sensory characteristics). For example, the Arbequina cultivar (native to Catalonia-Spain) tends to produce an oil with strong aromas (ranging from green banana, grass, butter, green almond and floral notes), a soft bitterness, and a low pungency. The Coratina cultivar (native to Puglia-Italy) tends to produce an oil with medium aromas (ranging from grass, green almond, and artichoke), a consistent bitterness, and a high pungency. Only by tasting will you be able to discover that olive oil can have very different sensory characteristics and learn which one is most suitable for you.
Virgin/Pure/Refined Oils:
Don’t let a few words as they are used in English influence your judgment of an olive oil. For example, in English, we associate the word virgin with “purity”. We may consequently think virgin defines the highest quality product. In the world of olive oil, this is not the case. For this reason we need the extra virgin definition for the oil to be of the best quality. The same is true for the word refined, generally associated with “superior” or “sophisticated”, and the word pure, generally associated with “unadulterated” or “uncontaminated”. In the world of olive oil, both refined and pure indicate lower-grade olive oils. A refined oil is produced by a refining process used to make inferior olive oils edible. A pure oil is a blend of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils, and it is also a lower-grade product.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
EVOO is an oil produced by using only olives, extracted without excess heat (not more than 86° F/30° C), or solvents (or any chemical treatments), and not refined or treated so as to neutralize defects. After production, the olive oil is not mixed with any other type of oil. When chemically analyzed, it has a free fatty acidity of no more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams of oil (0.8%).  When analyzed by a tasting panel, it has no sensory defects and some fruitiness.
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