`Olive Oil Sensory Science


Olive Oil Sensory Science

Jun. 5, 2014
Marcel E. Moran

Recent News

What about olive oil stirs the senses the most? Is it the way the mel­low green bot­tle reflects light like a prism around your kitchen, or how the smell mixes with the sea­son­ing and ingre­di­ents you cook it with? These qual­i­ties (and more) often seem beyond the realm of quan­ti­ta­tive study, but the recently pub­lished work Olive Oil Sen­sory Sci­ence,” edited by Erminio Mon­teleone and Susan Langstaff pro­vides ample evi­dence to the con­trary. At over 350 pages, this tour de force of the sci­ence behind the way we per­ceive olive oil cov­ers every­thing from tac­tile per­cep­tion (how the oil feels in our mouths) to mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion devel­op­ments from experts in their fields.

In the edition’s overview, Mon­teleone and Langstaff (from the Uni­ver­sity of Flo­rence, and Applied Sen­sory LLC, respec­tively) dis­cuss the global dimen­sions of the olive oil indus­try today, and argue that suc­cess in new mar­kets can be built on under­stand­ing the impor­tant dif­fer­ences and influ­ences of the sen­sory prop­er­ties olive oil elic­its.

Although much atten­tion has been paid to deter­min­ing extra-vir­gin olive oil (EVOO) from other vari­eties, they write this nec­es­sary eval­u­a­tion is not suf­fi­cient to describe the sen­sory diver­sity among EVOOs.” So what else should an olive oil indus­try mem­ber, chef, or con­nois­seur know besides how to check for defects? Quite a lot, it turns out.

The growth of the olive oil mar­ket around the world means that con­sumers are devel­op­ing more mature tastes, and in order to meet those chang­ing demands, it behooves the indus­try to under­stand what those fla­vors are built on and how those opin­ions are formed. For the sci­en­tist at heart, this book is a gold mine. Chap­ters writ­ten from pro­fes­sors from around the world offer melt­ing points, organic com­pound dia­grams, and sen­sory pro­files that oper­a­tional­ize almost every way olive oil is per­ceived.

Not only are the specifics of the oil exam­ined, but so too are the psy­cho­log­i­cal processes that form our sense of taste. The topic of human per­cep­tion can fill many books on its own, but the authors here do a good job con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing taste inte­gra­tion and exper­i­men­tal design in the con­text of olive oil.


Out­side of the unique ways that olive oil per­cep­tion can be quan­ti­fied, this book paints the indus­try as a global phe­nom­e­non. Part II of the book fea­tures chap­ters on olive oil from Spain, Italy, Greece, Aus­tralia, New Zealand, Cal­i­for­nia, and South Amer­ica, with color maps, vari­etal and cli­mate his­tory, and regional details for each coun­try down to a remark­able level.

The olive oils of Cal­i­for­nia are bro­ken down into 7 dif­fer­ent seg­ments that run from San Diego to the Men­do­cino, and com­bined this por­tion of the book pro­vides a com­pre­hen­sive guide to broad­en­ing your global olive oil knowl­edge.

Like any work com­prised of indi­vid­ual arti­cles, the selec­tions vary in struc­ture and focus. Some high­lights for the aver­age reader will most likely be Olive Oil in Food Pair­ing Stud­ies,” and Con­di­tions and Oppor­tu­ni­ties for Suc­cess­ful Mar­ket­ing.” If you’re ready to take your olive oil exper­tise to the next level, from grove to table, Olive Oil Sen­sory Sci­ence is an eru­dite and up-to-date resource.

Olive Oil Sen­sory Sci­ence, 388 pages, Feb­ru­ary 2014, Wiley-Black­well

Related News