How to taste extra virgin olive oil

Our article below will explain what you need to know about tasting a good quality extra virgin olive oil. A good extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) should have a fruity, clean, fresh aroma – this could have green grassy nuances, or could remind one of certain fruits or vegetables, like apple, tomato, artichoke, fresh nuts, rocket leaves or even the more tropical fruits like melon or guava.

It should be defect free – the nose and the palate must be free of any, however slight, off-notes.

Take a small sip and allow it to coat your mouth, so that all the taste buds are involved. There should be some fruitiness with bitter notes on the side and back of your tongue. As the oil passes down the back of the throat, receptors are stimulated which gives the perception of pepperiness, or piquancy and you may event have a little cough!

In a well-balanced oil, the aroma, flavour on palate and the bitterness and pepperiness, should be harmonious and integrated.

Quality extra virgin olive oil should be enjoyed as fresh as possible.

How do you recognise defects? The main defects which occur in olive oils are:

  • Rancidity – this is a result of oxidation, and is initially perceived as a slight staleness, which is the first stage of oxidation, and this is followed by rancidity. The mouthfeel of the oil changes and becomes more oily and cloyey. The smell and taste of the oil is reminiscent of stale nuts, old oil or butter.
  • Fusty/muddy sediment – this reminds one of old olives and could be as a result of olives standing for too long before pressing, dirty equipment, or too much sediment contact.
  • Musty – mould growing on the olives before pressing.
  • Wineyness – smells like vinegar or even acetone and results from aerobic fermentation of the olives before pressing.

(Taken from: The guide to extra virgin olive oil in South-Africa, Harvest 2016)