How to Taste an Olive Oil

Not all olive oil is created equal. Once you’ve tasted the real deal of Italian extra virgin olive oil, it’s hard to go back to the regular grocery store brand! 

You might be thinking, “doesn’t olive oil all taste the same?” The answer is no! Some estimate that there are as many as 600 native varieties of olive trees in Italy; it isn’t a stretch to consider that all of these olives would produce oils of varying flavours. The best way to understand these differences is to try an olive oil tasting.

Let’s take a look at how to do an olive oil tasting, and the tasting notes of oils from different regions.

How to taste an olive oil

You’ve probably heard of a wine tasting, and an olive oil tasting is very similar! While it might sound strange to taste olive oil on its own, you can learn a lot when you try an olive oil tasting. Let’s look at the steps of how to taste an olive oil so you can try it in your own home!

Step 1: Notice the color

Before you taste, a lot can be deduced from the color of the oil. Is it bright green and cloudy? This means the oil is very young and fresh. Is the oil clear and golden yellow? This might indicate that the oil is more mature so the taste will be more subtle.

Step 2: Warm the oil in the glass

Using a small vessel like a shot glass, cup the bowl of the glass in one hand and place the other hand flat on top of the glass. Gently move your hands in a circular motion for 20-30 seconds to swirl the oil around. The subtle warming from the heat of your hand and the agitation encourages the release of aromatic compounds.

Step 3: Smell

Deeply smell the olive oil. Notice if there are any “off” or defective smells. A high quality extra virgin olive oil should smell clean and carry aromas of grass, herbs, earth, and fruit.

Step 4: Taste

Now for the fun part! Take a small sip of oil and hold it in the bottom of your mouth. Do a “strepaggio,” taking several sips of air while holding the oil in your mouth without swallowing. This aromatizes the oil and allows the flavours to hit every corner of your mouth.

Now you may swallow. Expect to taste profound vegetal and herbaceous notes in addition to fruit and bitterness. In the aftertaste, you should notice a profound spicy peppery sensation in the back of the throat. This is a good thing! The stronger the spicy sensation correlates to a higher concentration of antioxidants in the oil.

 

Tasting notes of olive oils from different regions

Just as the flavour of a wine can vary greatly depending on the land, the grapes, and the winemaking process, the same goes for olive oil! The area in which the olive orchards grow, the varieties of olives used, the extraction process and age all impact how an olive oil will taste. Let’s explore the characteristics of olive oils from three different regions.

Emilia Romagna

Following the Emilia Romagna tradition, the olives for Vargnano extra virgin olive oil are harvested while still green. This allows the Nostrana cultivar to best express their unique characteristics. The resulting oil is pale green with intense aromas of fresh vegetable notes like tomato leaf and artichoke. When tasted, it has a clear bite.

Vargnano olive oil is excellent when drizzled over salads, vegetable soups, or just a piece of bread and some salt.

Toscana

Tuscan olive oil is known to be big, bold, and spicy, but Delicate Olive Oil showcases a different expression of a traditional product. This golden oil is light and fruity on the nose with elegant notes of artichoke, herbs, and almond. When tasted it is quite rich and full with notes of celery, artichoke, thistle, and sweet almond. It is moderately bitter and spicy, which is typical of extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany.

Delicate olive oil is best used as a finishing oil, drizzled over any seafood dish or over cheese for aperitivo.

Sardinia

Ozzastrera Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Sardinia is made exclusively with Bosana variety olives harvested in December. This late harvest oil is particularly fruity and herbaceous, with a persistent bitter and spicy aftertaste of wild thistle, artichoke and dandelion.

When cooking with Ozzastrera EVOO it is quite versatile, to be used as a finishing oil or when cooking to enhance particularly strong flavours. Try it in meat stews and braises, or drizzled over a steak right before serving.

 

When visiting Italy, we hope you will include an olive oil tasting in your trip. But until then, we are happy to offer a wide array of high quality olive oils from across the country so you can do an olive oil tasting in your own home!

Until next time, 

Verity