Special Report: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra virgin olive oil is made simply by crushing olives and extracting the juice. It is the only cooking oil that is made without the use of chemicals and industrial refining.
Extra virgin olive oil must have no taste “defects.” It needs to have a nice flavor of fresh olives and achieve higher scores in lab tests for its chemical composition than other grades.
Since extra virgin olive oil is simply fruit juice without any additives, its quality and taste are influenced by the varieties of olives, the terroir where they were grown, and the countless decisions and production practices of a dedicated producer.
What is Extra Virgin Olive Oil?
Extra virgin is the highest quality and most expensive olive oil classification. It should have no defects and a flavor of fresh olives.
In chemical terms extra virgin olive oil is described as having a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams and a peroxide value of less than 20 milliequivalent O2. It must be produced entirely by mechanical means without the use of any solvents, and under temperatures that will not degrade the oil (less than 86°F, 30°C).
In order for an oil to qualify as “extra virgin” the oil must also pass both an official chemical test in a laboratory and a sensory evaluation by a trained tasting panel recognized by the International Olive Council. The olive oil must be found to be free from defects while exhibiting some fruitiness.
Olive oil tasters describe the "positive attributes" using the following terms:
- Fruity: Having pleasant spicy fruit flavors characteristic of fresh ripe or green olives. Ripe fruit yields oils that are milder, aromatic, buttery, and floral. Green fruit yields oils that are grassy, herbaceous, bitter, and pungent. Fruitiness also varies with the variety of olive.
- Bitter: Creating a mostly pleasant acrid flavor sensation on the tongue.
- Pungent: Creating a peppery sensation in the mouth and throat
Other Grades of Olive Oil
Here's where it gets technical. In countries that adhere to the olive oil standards of the International Olive Council (IOC), the following grades are used:
Virgin olive oil
Virgin olive oil has a free acidity expressed as oleic acid of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams and other technical characteristics in the IOC standard.
Ordinary virgin olive oil has a free acidity of not more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams (and the other characteristics for the category).
Virgin olive oil not fit for consumption is designated lampante virgin olive oil. It has acidity of more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams and it is intended for refining or other uses.
Olive oil is the oil consisting of a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption as they are. It has a free acidity of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams and other technical characteristics detailed in the IOC standard.
Refined olive oil
Refined olive oil is the olive oil obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods which do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams.
Olive-pomace oil is the oil comprising the blend of refined olive-pomace oil and virgin olive oils fit for consumption as they are. It has a free acidity of not more than 1 gram per 100 grams.
Crude olive-pomace oil
Crude olive-pomace oil is olive-pomace oil intended for refining for use for human consumption, or it is intended for technical use.
Refined olive-pomace oil
Refined olive-pomace oil is the oil obtained from crude olive-pomace oil by refining methods which do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. It has a free acidity of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams and other characteristics in the IOC standard. Olive-pomace oils can never be labelled “olive oil.”
Recent News About Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Phenols in Extra Virgin Olive Oil Inhibit Colon Cancer Cell GrowthA recent study has shown phenolic extracts in EVOO have an antiproliferative effect on human colon cancer cells.
Olive Oil Phenols Help Protect Bone MassPhenols in EVOO provide protection against cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and the aging process. They may also prevent the loss of bone mass.
A Merry 'Tonda Iblea' Harvest in SicilyDaniele Miccione and his family had a good harvest in Buccheri, a small village in south-eastern Sicily where their award-winning Tuttotonda is born.
Rome Journal: A Peek Inside the Olive Oil Mill Next DoorSmall olive oil farms dot the rolling Roman hills where the love for the craft is the main ingredient in the popular local olive oil.
Pouring on the Olive Oil for ThanksgivingFor Thanksgiving, olive oil is flowing in the creative minds and kitchens of chefs and home cooks alike. EVOO elevates holiday flavors without changing the beloved classics.
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Olive Pomace Oil: Not What You Might Think
Once the typical, mechanized extraction of olive oil from the olive fruit is complete, a little (5-8 percent) of the oil still remains in the leftover olive pulp and pits called “pomace.” Although the pomace oil that is extracted is still technically oil that comes from olives, it is produced only through the use of chemical solvents, and cannot be called “olive oil.”
Unregulated olive pomace oil sometimes contains harmful components known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) like benzopyrene, which research has shown to be highly carcinogenic and mutagenic. In 2001, after extremely high levels of PAHs were detected, olive pomace oil was banned in several countries for a while until “acceptable” limits were established.
Many people don't realize what they are buying when they choose olive pomace oil, only that it has a lower price. In most markets, olive pomace oil use is confined to the foodservice industry.
Olive pomace oil is produced using the same industrial solvents and refining methods used for seed oils such as canola, sunflower and peanut. Still, olive pomace oil is a monounsaturated fat, and is considered a better alternative to polyunsaturated seed oils.
Report: Most Imported Extra Virgin Olive Oils Aren’t Extra Virgin
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