How to Choose Your Next Extra Virgin Olive Oil

On the heal of another fraud claim in the olive oil industry concerning the “false, misleading and scientifically unsubstantiated statements about olive oil sold in supermarkets” by Veronica Foods and seven New York-area Veronica-supplied retailers also named in the lawsuit filed by the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA), we provide a few pointers when buying that next bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

  1. Never buy olive oil labeled “Pure”, “Ultra Premium” or “Blended” extra virgin olive oil. There are no such industry specific classification in the olive oil industry.  Specifications are Extra Virgin, Virgin or Lampante for natural virgin olive oils and Refined Olive Oil, Olive Oil or Pure Olive Oil, Light or Extra Light Olive Oil for refined olive oils.
  2. Price. Any average extra virgin olive oil with an in store price below US$ 10 a liter is more than likely NOT extra virgin. Spending a bit more after understanding the brand history and production techniques of the producer goes a long way when it comes to the nutritional benefits of healthy extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Avoid clear or light-colored glass bottles.  Light causes oil to photo-oxidize.  During your next grocery store visit, search out extra virgin olive oils packaged in dark glass bottles and pick up an Olivar Santamaria.
  4. Look for olive cultivars on the label.  Truly excellent oils will have the cultivar (type of olive fruit) on the bottle.  This is essential to understand what the oil will taste like, expected shelf life and how it affects and interacts with your food and taste requirements.  Picual variety is the most versatile of all the olive cultivars with a smoke point of 405 degrees and a 23-month shelf life.
  5. Look for a region of origin.  The best oils usually come from a single estate or classified growing area.  In this sense, all the olives should be localized.  If you’re familiar with the rules governing wines and cheeses, the same concept applies to olives.  Simply put, the smaller the geographic growing area such as area around Jaen and the Andalusian region of Spain, the more focused the flavors.
  6. Look for a harvest date.  Olive oil goes rancid after approximately two years, so the fresher the better.  Always purchase oil from the most recent harvest possible.
  7. Ask for “Cold-Extracted”.  Most producers mill their olives using the cold-extraction method.  The olives run through a series of vacuums and centrifuges and are never exposed to oxygen during the production process, thereby procuring the intense aromas and flavors.

Upon taste, you should recognize slight bitterness and a subtle peppery kick proving that it is Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  The stronger such sensations the finer and more robust the quality of oil will be.

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