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Olive oil can enhance any dish, from beginning to end. You can choose to sauté or marinade with it, or you can add it as a finishing touch to any meal. To maximize the result of most fresh dishes, the key to elevating the flavor is by using a very distinct finishing oil with characteristics that will enhance and compliment the dish you are preparing.

Olive Oils come in a range of different categories depending on their method of production.

1)Virgin Olive Oils

a. Extra Virgin

b. Virgin

c. Regular Virgin

d. Lampante Virgin

 

2)Refined  Virgin Olive Oils

 

3)Pomace Oils.

 

1) Virgin Olive Oils are produced through only physical or mechanical means.  All virgin oils are obtained only through the first pressing of olives, which gives the oil its high-quality and smooth taste. High quality extra virgin olive oil provides a high content of antioxidants, vitamins E & K, chlorophyll, and carotenoids.  Antioxidants are key to strengthening the immune system and protecting the body from the damaging effects of free radical molecules, making extra virgin olive oil a great choice for healthy cooking.

The name “Virgin” has been used since ancestral times to identify the “naturality” of the extraction: Virgin, in fact stands for natural.

The Virgin Olive oils are extracted from the entire olive fruit, both the pulp and the pit inside.

          a. EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

To be an "extra virgin" olive oil it must prove to be totally free of defects under sensory analysis, and fully in accordance with the chemical-physical parameters established by international regulations and have an acidity of less than 0.8%.

But even “Extra” Virgin alone is not enough to classify an oil. In fact there can be an incredible difference between one oil to another, as its acidity can range from 0.8% to 0.15 %. Above all, notwithstanding the acidity, there are hundreds of flavour profiles that extra virgin oils can have.

 Understanding the difference in Extra Virgin Olive Oils is similar to understand red wine.  Acidity, olive varietal, terroir and production method all affect the flavour profile of an oil.  

How to Taste an Extra Virgin Olive Oil:

Extra Virgin olive oils are best tasted on their own. 

●        Pour a small amount in a cup.

●        Smell  the oil (often tasters rub some of the oil in their hands to release its aroma)

●        Sip the oil, breathing in air through your teeth as it sits in your mouth

●        Experience the different flavour sensations as it hits the different parts of the palate.  You may experience a peppery or spicy finish to certain oils, so have water nearby

         b.  “VIRGIN” olive oils  are virgin oils that have an slightly imperfect sensory analysis and a total acidity less than 2%

 
         c. “REGULAR VIRGIN” olive oils  are virgin oils that have slight defects in sensory analysis and have total acidity less than 3,3%

 

          d. “LAMPANTI VIRGIN” olive oils are virgin oils that have strong defects in sensory analysis and a total acidity less than 3,3%

Note: The most common name of the variety of virgin commonly sold on the market is: Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2)  Refined Virgin Olive oils oils are virgin olive oils (produced with the same mechanic method) that have undergone an additional refining, by a chemical-physical process system. The virgin oils that are normally used for refining are those one that because of a high level of total acidity or/and an defect in organoleptic characteristics are by law deemed inedible.

These oils are historically called "lampante oils," because they were used in the past as lamp fuel. These oils are refined to lower their free acid levels, and to remove any unpleasant aroma and color defects without altering their chemical structure.

After refinement, an olive oil tastes like a practically flawless fatty substance. Before being sold to consumers it must be blended with extra virgin or virgin olive oil which contributes color and taste and then named is able to be called Olive Oil

(The law does not set the minimum percent of virgin or extra virgin oil to be added; usually the average amount is 5%-8%, but the best producers go as far as 30%, using only extra virgin oil in order to make their product much tastier to the palate as well as nutritionally perfect).

The common name of the refined variety commonly sold on the market is: Olive Oil

3) Pomace Oils are extracted with the use of solvents.

They are obtained from the solid residue that remains from the natural pressing used to extract the virgin oils. In fact after crushing the olives there remains a solid residue of pulp and pits, called “pomace”. The latter still contains a certain amount of oil which varies according to the processing system used. The solvent process (the same technology used for the production of seed oils) is the only way to extract the remaining percentage of oil contained in the pomace.

The common name of the Pomace oil variety commonly sold on the market is: Olive Pomace Oil

 

Storage and Handling Suggestions: Olive Oils stay best if stored away from light and heat. Olive Oils are best consumed within a year.

 

About Extra Virgin Olive Oils 

Regional Changes in Flavor

Olive oil is often characterized by its regional flavors.  Due to the climate differences, olive trees in the north tend to produce olives that have a more spicy, peppery taste, while trees in the south are known to produce olives with a full, buttery, taste.

Monocultivar vs. Blends

Monocultivar olive oils are produced using only one variety of olive. Its flavor is often smooth, with a full-fruity taste and fragrance, unique to that one type of olive. Blend olive oils are made using multiple olive varieties.  They tend to have a fruitier flavor and can be spicier.

Regional D.O.P

DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin).  It is the indication of quality attributed to an agricultural or food product, whose particular characteristics depend exclusively  on the area in which it is produced. 

DOP products are unique and unrivalled because they are the result of specific factors, both natural and such as oil, climate or indigenous variety, or human such as the techniques and traditions of production and processing, none of which can be duplicated in any way outside the area selected as the DOP.

DOP enjoy the security and protection against imitation throughout the whole area of the European Union.  Only 194 local products in Italy are qualified DOP (cheese, salami, fruit and vegetables, spices and olive oils)

To give an idea of the standards represented in the olive oil sector, only 2% of production in Italy comes under the DOP and IGP regulations.