How to taste Olive Oil

Just like wine tasting, there’s a basic set of principles and vocabulary governing the tasting of Olive Oil.

Provence guru visited Frederic Ratto of Oliversion for a beginner’s guide.

According to Frederic the flavour of an oil is determined by a number of factors including the varietal of olive, ripeness at harvest, climate, soil type, crop maintenance and the milling process. Oil made with unripe (green) olives contains peppery flavours usually described as grassy. Riper olives display softer flavours usually described as buttery.

The tasting process.

Firstly, pour a small amount of oil into a wine glass, then swirl the oil to free the aroma. Inhale deeply from the top of the glass, to get an idea of the fruitiness or otherwise of the oil.

At this point, the process is still rather like tasting wine.

Here’s the difference:

With wine you sip then gargle/swill, with oil  you slurp. Pretend you are a naughty child and make as much noise as possible.  Slurping mixes the oil with air and spreads it throughout your mouth.

And unlike with wine, you get to swallow. Note the burning sensation in your throat.

Tasting terms:

Once you can taste there’s a whole set of vocab to master.

The IOC that’s the International Olive Council not the International Olympic Committee suggests the following descriptive terms:

Apple/Green Apple: indicative of certain olive varietals

Almond: nutty (fresh not oxidized)

Artichoke: green flavor

Astringent: puckering sensation in mouth created by tannins; often associated with bitter, robust oils

Banana: ripe and unripe banana fruit

Bitter: considered a positive attribute because it is indicative of fresh olive fruit

Buttery: creamy, smooth sensation on palate

Eucalyptus: aroma of specific olive varietals

Floral: perfume/aroma of flowers

Forest: fresh aroma reminiscent of forest floor, NOT dirty

Fresh: good aroma, fruity, not oxidixed

Fruity: refers to the aroma of fresh olive fruit, which is perceived through the nostrils and retro-nasally when the oil is in one’s mouth.

Grass: the aroma of fresh-cut (mowed) grass

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