`Sensory Evaluation Classes Return to Paso Robles Olive Festival - Olive Oil Times

Sensory Evaluation Classes Return to Paso Robles Olive Festival

Jul. 28, 2011
Lori Zanteson

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Looking to really rock your olive oil world? Definitely put the August 20 Paso Robles Olive Festival on your cal­en­dar, but show up a day early for a Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil class. It will not only arrest your senses, but your knowl­edge, under­stand­ing and appre­ci­a­tion of olive oil. There’s no bet­ter primer for the festival’s cel­e­bra­tion of the olive and its pre­cious oil with tast­ings, wine, and gourmet food in gor­geous sum­mer­time Paso Robles, California.

Organized by U.C. Davis and the California Olive Oil Council, two classes, one begin­ning and one advanced, are offered August 19 at the Paso Robles Inn. In its sec­ond year at the Olive Festival, the classes are part of the olive oil short courses offered by U.C. Davis.

Though the classes tar­get those in the indus­try such as grow­ers, millers and spe­cialty shop retail­ers, it attracts any­one with an inter­est who wants to learn more, accord­ing to Nicole Sturzenberger, Assistant Director of the U.C. Davis Olive Center. Last year’s class was so pop­u­lar, Sturzenberger said, We com­pletely sold out and turned peo­ple away. We don’t like that.” To bet­ter accom­mo­date the high demand this year, they’ve added a sec­ond class and dou­bled the enroll­ment capac­ity. The classes will fill quickly, espe­cially at $95 each. This price point is really great,” explained Sturzenberger. Usually a short course is $275 for a day.”

Alexandra Kicenik Devarenne, Sonoma County-based olive oil con­sul­tant and edu­ca­tor and Sandy Sonnenfeld, olive oil taste panel mem­ber and pre­pared food man­ager for the Pasta Shop will instruct both classes. The begin­ning class, Devarenne explained, is an intro­duc­tion to the sen­sory eval­u­a­tion of olive oil designed toward the per­son uses olive oil but has had no for­mal train­ing or back­ground. It may be a retailer, pro­ducer or dis­trib­uter who is engaged in the busi­ness of olive oil but with no for­mal train­ing. It begins with the sen­sory attrib­utes of olive oil: aroma, taste, fla­vor, and the dif­fer­ences in each one. Participants then taste a num­ber of olive oils using the offi­cial pro­to­col and tast­ing tech­nique used in International Olive Council accred­ited pan­els. 

Devarenne and Sonnenfeld lead the class through an exam­i­na­tion of the clas­sic neg­a­tive attrib­utes, along with an expla­na­tion of the causes, as well as pos­i­tive attrib­utes of oils. We give peo­ple as much under­stand­ing as pos­si­ble to give a men­tal frame­work,” explained Devarenne. Fustiness, for exam­ple, is iden­ti­fied by smell and taste, fol­lowed by the expla­na­tion of why it hap­pens. It’s crit­i­cal to look at the neg­a­tive because they’re ram­pant,” said Devarenne, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time. You’ve got to taste the nasty stuff and move on.”


Then the real fun begins. Using the offi­cial tast­ing lan­guage, par­tic­i­pants con­tinue to sip a vari­ety of olive oils, but this time around to iden­tity pos­i­tive attrib­utes, nar­rated by an expla­na­tion of how influ­ences such as vari­ety, har­vest matu­rity, tem­per­a­ture and cli­mate affect the tastes.

As impor­tant as it is to sip the oils to iso­late the fla­vors and talk about them, Devarenne said, At the end of the day, olive oil is a food, not a bev­er­age. What really mat­ters is how it tastes on a tomato or on a slice of mozzerella. That is the most impor­tant part, to see how the fla­vor pro­files on its own and then paired with food.”

The advanced class explores olive oil in fur­ther depth and is designed to ben­e­fit mak­ers and sell­ers alike. It cov­ers top­ics such as the influ­ences of pro­cess­ing and vari­eties, blend­ing, cul­tural prac­tices and irri­ga­tion on olive oil. Participants may cer­tainly take both classes, as this class fol­lows the begin­ning class.

Register on the U.C. Davis Olive Center web­site, but don’t daw­dle, classes fill quickly.

Aug 19, 2011
9:00 am to 4:30 pm
Paso Robles Inn, Paso Robles California
Contact Nicole Sturzenberger
(530) 754‑9301

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