`France University Offers Degree in Olive Oil - Olive Oil Times

France University Offers Degree in Olive Oil

May. 22, 2012
Alice Alech

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In France, stu­dents can now obtain a Diplôme Universitaire (DU) d’Oléologie, or a uni­ver­sity spe­cial­iza­tion diploma in olive oil.

Aiming to increase the num­ber of olive oil pro­fes­sion­als, a joint ven­ture was set up by the Association Française Interprofessionelle de L’Olive (Afidol) and the Faculty of Pharmacy of the University of Montpellier.

Professor of chem­istry, Alain Blaise, who helped set up the course is in charge of oenol­ogy – the sci­ence and tech­nique of mak­ing and con­sum­ing wine — as well as oléolo­gie, a rel­a­tively new word invented in France to describe the study of olive oil.

The chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion of olive oil and its char­ac­ter­is­tics are just as com­plex as wine. Professor Blaise said that the link between wine and now olive oil goes back to 1957 when chemists were called to study the chem­i­cal com­po­si­tion of wine, set­ting up norms for sugar lev­els and other com­po­nents.

Montpellier University is the only uni­ver­sity in France that offers a uni­ver­sity level olive oil degree and one of the five uni­ver­si­ties that offer the more involved Diplôme National d’Oenologue for wine mak­ing. University olive oil pro­grams are not so rare in Spain and Italy, where the sec­tor is far larger than France’s.


Some of the stu­dents are viti­cul­tur­ists look­ing to diver­sify, but 90 per­cent of the stu­dents have olive orchards of their own. To get their diploma stu­dents, must fol­low in depth stud­ies on

  • The tech­niques involved in the trans­for­ma­tion of olives, olive oil and olive based prod­ucts
  • The com­po­si­tion and analy­ses of olive oil
  • Organoleptic assess­ment of olives and olive oil
  • Hygiene, secu­rity of instal­la­tions and main­tain­ing qual­ity
  • Olive oil reg­u­la­tions in France and abroad
  • Economy and mar­ket­ing
  • Nutrition and Health

Field trips to olive orchards and mills are included in the 220 hours, and enroll­ment each year is lim­ited to 20 par­tic­i­pants who pay 1,500 euros. (1,906 USD). Classes are held once a week from January to June end­ing with a three hour exam. To make sure stu­dents have a global knowl­edge, Professor Blaise invites fel­low pro­fes­sors from abroad to share their exper­tise.

One of the first stu­dents to enroll when the course started in 2010 was Roland Coupat, owner of a 14 hectare olive orchard, Bastide du Laval. Although Roland has been pro­duc­ing AOC-rec­og­nized olive oil for 12 years and has taken dif­fer­ent train­ing courses, he still felt he needed more knowl­edge espe­cially in prac­ti­cal and sci­en­tific skills.

I was very pleased with the course — it was seri­ous, it gave us direc­tion and also, very ben­e­fi­cial, it pro­vided us with key con­tacts so we could widen our knowl­edge,” he said.

Coupat, whose domaine is sit­u­ated in the medieval vil­lage Cadenat in the Luberon region of Provence, is enthu­si­as­tic about the future: I plan to be fully con­verted to bio by 2013… there will be lots of changes here,” he added.

Another par­tic­i­pant in the 2010 pro­mo­tion, Ann Desmaison, can now pro­vide ongo­ing care for her 60 olive trees. She said: the Diploma course cov­ered every­thing from the chem­istry of olive oil to the taste, olive orchards and dis­eases relat­ing to olive grow­ing, trans­for­ma­tion of olives to mar­ket­ing of olive oil, from genet­ics to olive oil reg­u­la­tions. I now have a global pic­ture of all these parts.”

Her diploma allows her to sit as a mem­ber of the panel, and help­ing to main­tain the high stan­dard of organolep­tic assess­ment of olive oils, for Concours Général Agricole – one of the pre­mier olive oil com­pe­ti­tions.

Now skilled in all aspects of olive oil cul­ti­va­tion, Desmaison offers one day sem­i­nars for olive oil enthu­si­asts. Working with the Discover Day deal, this olive oil expert takes par­tic­i­pants through the process of mak­ing olive oil includ­ing field trips to orchards and a mill which uses both tra­di­tional and mod­ern tech­niques. But what food enthu­si­asts really appre­ci­ate is the enthu­si­asm Desmaison shares with them when dis­cussing the Mediterranean diet.

Desmaison said nutri­tional facts, tast­ing and shar­ing are just as impor­tant, so by end­ing the day with a spe­cially pre­pared menu, I demon­strate how to cre­ate har­mo­nious fla­vors by pair­ing food with olive oil. That way they see just how ver­sa­tile olive oil is in cook­ing, and they get a bet­ter under­stand­ing of extra vir­gin.”

With chem­istry and sen­sory top­ics hot items these days, set­ting up such stud­ies are pos­i­tive strides for France. Besides improv­ing pro­fi­ciency and hav­ing more chem­istry experts they are all part of edu­cat­ing the gen­eral pub­lic — all vital for pro­mot­ing, mon­i­tor­ing and main­tain­ing French stan­dards.

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