It is good to know that EVO Oil is the only food product whose organoleptic characteristics are regulated by a European regulation so that it can be commercialized.
After the chemical analysis that certifies the oil has the chemical-physical characteristics to be classified as Extra Virgin Olive (in summary Acidity, Peroxides and Spectrophotometry) we move on to Sensorial Analysis. This too is carried out by certified structures which, through the so-called Panel Test, a group of 8/12 professional tasters, led by a Panel leader, are going to taste the oil.
First of all, the absence of defects is verified. The median of the result (through elaboration regulated by the European directive) must be zero. An Extra Virgin Olive Oil has to be free of defects.
Then follows the sensory evaluation, starting with the olfactory examination to detect the presence of typical aromas and determining the intensity (light, medium or intense Fruity) and the peculiarity, green if it recalls green fruits like basil, artichoke, thistle, or mature if more prone to almond or ripe fruit aromas.
And then we move on to try to confirm the olfactory perceptions and to assess the level of bitter e di spicy the two key attributes as quality markers.
Color is not a determining element for the quality for an oil, and for this reason it is not subject to an official evaluation. So much so that the glasses used in the tasting are colored to avoid conditioning the taster's judgment with the oil color.
An oil coming from olives harvested at the beginning of maturation is very likely, for the same cultivar, having a greener color than that obtained from olives harvested at an advanced maturity.
Fruity: EVO oil must produce an olfactory sensation that reminds us of the fruit from which it comes. This sensation is all the more marked as the quality of the olives is higher in terms of healthy fruit, correct ripeness and timeliness in the milling process. In the tasting, reference is made to sensations perceived through smell.
Bitter: the attribute that often creates greater misunderstanding among the non-experts, being confused with a defect. Bitter is one of the main assets of quality oil and is due to olives that were harvested in the initial stage of ripening, still green. The phenolic compounds are responsible to set the bitterness. And the polyphenols are friends of the olive oil, since they preserve its quality over time reducing oxidation process and are friends as well of human being for the same antioxidant action forour cells.
Spicy: It is another characteristic due to the presence of polyphenols and therefore an index of oil quality. Partly prevalent from olives harvested in the initial phase partly still green. The more the olives are healthy, the more they are rich in polyphenols: the polyphenols are responsible for the sensation of spiciness in the throat. As well as for the bitter, the presence of polyphenols is beneficial for the preservation of oil and for our health.
Neither the bitter nor the spicy must be confused with the acidity. The acidity, due to its low values, cannot be perceived from a sensory point of view even by professional tasters. The only way to measure it is chemical analysis.
The negative attributes that occur most frequently in oils that have had problems in one or more phases of production, collection, preservation, are:
- Rancid: presents the typical smell of fat left in the air. It is the effect of oxidation caused by oxygen. Olive oil that came into contact with air during the milling and / or storage phases.
- Winey: the olives have suffered maltreatment (crushing) during the phases of transport and / or storage which caused the juice to come out which, on contact with the air, had a fermentation (just like wine).
- Fusty: the olives have been crammed and left for many hours in containers (typically plastic bags) where they have activated processes of fermentation in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic) that have raised the temperature of the fruits (typical in stacks of grass clippings) .
Other defetcs are:
Musty, Irony, Wood, Soil, Worm, Cucumber.
The Extra Virgin Olive Oil must have a median as results of the negative attributes equal to zero (absence of negative attributes in the Panel Test) and median of the positive attributes higher than zero with expected emphasis on the fruitiness to denote an oil personality: partly attributable to the origin of the product and partly to the methods of production, harvesting and milling.