How to taste an
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Tasting an extra virgin olive oil implies exploring its sensory characteristics through accurate sensory analysis, following a precise sequence. This involves our sense organs, such as sight, smell and taste, which respond to stimuli of a chemical-physical nature.

The sensations we perceive in response to these stimuli constitute the emotional synthesis of the experience. In this way, we are able to fully appreciate the qualities of extra virgin olive oil and immerse ourselves in a unique sensorial experience.

Please notice:

Before starting, it is important to consider several aspects that go beyond sensory analysis. It is essential to clarify that, before being tasted, an oil must have been stored in the best possible conditions. In fact, if the oil has been exposed to excessive temperatures or has spent several days under the sun, the quality of the product inevitably suffers compared to the time since it left the mill. This leads to an alteration and compromise of its organoleptic characteristics. Furthermore, it is advisable to pay particular attention to the production season indicated on the back label, since a more recent oil (from the same line) will be of better quality.

The color of the oil is not necessarily an indicator of its quality, but it can give us an idea of when it was obtained during the production season and the type of cultivar used. In general, a green-colored oil is obtained in the first days of the olive oil season, when the olives are predominantly green and retain a good amount of chlorophyll. As maturation progresses, chlorophyll levels decrease and the oil takes on a more golden yellow hue.

The color, which can vary from green to yellow with different shades, is an important visual aspect, but not as important as the clarity of the oil. In fact, the oil should not appear cloudy, since over time the solid particles will tend to go rancid and degrade the extra virgin more quickly, creating unpleasant sensations such as the famous sensation of sludge. Therefore, it is important that the oil appears clear thanks to filtering, thus transmitting sensations of freshness.

These are the most complex sensations as there are many elements to examine: the aromatic fragrance and its multiplicity. Olfactory sensations are made up of odors or perfumes that stimulate the olfactory system via a direct or indirect nasal route. Gently rubbing our glass to warm it slightly and bringing it closer to the nose, we notice that the main olfactory characteristics that we can mainly identify in our oils are:

The fruitiness of extra virgin olive oil is a sensation that varies from light to intense and represents all the olfactory characteristics of the oil. This aromatic profile depends both on the type of olive cultivar used and on their degree of ripeness. Fruity can be further divided into two main categories:

Ripe olive
It is perceived when there is an olfactory characteristic typical of oils obtained from fully ripe olives.

Unripe olive
It manifests itself when the typical olfactory characteristic of oils obtained from olives harvested before or during the veraison process is perceived.

The extra virgin olive oil obtained from the “Frantoio” cultivar can have an olfactory characteristic that recalls fresh almonds.

The artichoke note, typically present in the highest quality extra virgin olive oils, is particularly evident in the oils produced with the “Moraiolo” cultivar.

Typical sensation of freshly cut grass.

Particularly present in oils produced with ripe olives which give complexity to the bouquet of an EVO oil.

Sensations attributable to apple, banana or exotic fruit.

Once our extra virgin olive oil has been evaluated from a visual and olfactory point of view, it is important to proceed with the taste analysis. Taking a small sip of oil in the glass, we bring it into our mouth without swallowing it completely. Clenching our teeth and slightly opening our lips to the sides, we inhale forcefully through the openings created in our mouth. Finally, we swallow the oil down our throat. During this experience, we will have two main sensations to evaluate:

Another typical sensation in high quality EVO oils in which Moraiolo is present is easily identifiable on the terminal part of the tongue.

The spicy sensation that is felt once the oil is ingested is caused by the action of the chemoreceptors present in the oral cavity. This burning sensation can persist for a variable period and significantly affects the complexity of the extra virgin olive oil. Furthermore, this spiciness assures us that the oil is rich in important nutraceutical substances, such as polyphenols, which are natural antioxidants present in various quantities within each oil.

At the end of our tasting it is inevitable that the subjective analysis comes into play which is the result of the multi-sensory emotion felt during the tasting. The final evaluation cannot be objective for everyone, and everyone perceives in a different way the various characteristics that can be found in each oil which can range from the overall pleasantness, up to the harmony of the intersection of the dish on which we are going to use our oil. And here our map comes into play with different parameters that determine in the most objective way possible the characteristics of each of our extra virgin olive oils to help you choose the ideal one for you.