Every aspect of olive production affects the quality of the oil: the growing region (climate, altitude, soil character), methods of growing, harvesting, and transporting the fruit, as well as extraction and storage methods. The care taken in each of these steps not only affects the taste and quality of the olive oil but its cost, yield, and shelf life. Great Ciao carries oils from around the Mediterranean, from buttery Spanish oils to grassy Sicilian oils. We have something for everyone with olive oil.
This newsletter should help give us a common language to communicate about olive oils, to help us in judging what qualities we want from an olive oil and what factors are responsible for the amazing diversity of flavors. While what determines whether we like or dislike an olive oil is subjective, there are some objective indicators of these attributes, namely the acidity of olive oil and the wax content.
The acidity of an olive oil is determined by the quality of the olives, the ripeness of the olives, and the temperatures of production and storage. Extra virgin olive oil should have a very low acidity, ranging from 0.3 to 0.5% and always less than 1%. Higher acidity could indicate defects in the oil, which usually result when olives are not pressed quickly enough after collection, or oil is stored at elevated temperatures or is overexposed to light and air during the production process.
The wax content in a quality olive oil must be less than 250 milligrams of wax per kilogram of oil. Elevated levels of wax in virgin or refined olive oils are indicative of the presence of crude pomace oil, which contains high levels of wax. Eliminating these waxes from the oils can be accomplished with filtering, by cooling the oil to solidify the waxes and then passing through filters. Alternatively, a more gentle pressing of well-handled fruits will ensure that fewer of these waxes are extracted and will result in a more refined oil, a true extra virgin olive oil.
The most important factor in determining the quality of oil is not necessarily the type of olive, but the timing of the harvest, how the fruit is harvested and the actual processing. There are four factors deteriming quality and flavor of an olive oil:
- ·Fruit maturity is critical in determining the taste and quality of olive oil. For instance, green (early harvest) Tuscan olives and green Spanish olives may yield similar oils, whereas early harvest Tuscan olives and late harvest Tuscan olives may yield oils quite different from each other. Ripe fruits yield more oil than green fruits, the oil contains fewer antioxidants, and its taste will be milder.
- Fruit varieties will produce oils of varying intensity, from very mild to grassy and from rich and nutty to bitter, with infinite variations in flavor, aroma and color.
- ·Harvesting techniques affect the quality of the final product. Handpicked olives that are not stacked too deeply and are brought immediately to the mill to be crushed will produce high quality oil. Whereas, mechanically harvested fruit that is piled high in bins damages the fruit. Also, fruit that is not milled quickly after harvest, can get infested with olive flies and produce poor quality olive oil.
- Exposure to oxygen, light, and heat is detrimental to the quality of the oil. Hence, stainless steel containers and dark glass bottles are preferable to other storing methods. Olive oil should also be kept away from the heat.
As always the most important thing to do is to taste and to enjoy. So, please give us a call to schedule a tasting, either at the warehouse or at your place of business.
Please follow and like us: