An olive oil tasting – like a wine tasting – lets you understand the oil’s aroma, flavor and peppery quality, or pungency. Those features form the core attributes of true extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). A tasting can also help you gauge defects – such as mustiness – found in lesser quality oils. At California Olive Ranch we taste our extra virgin olive oils throughout the milling process – from the time we press the fresh olives to the time the oil goes into the bottle.
Tasting, of course, also gives you a better idea of how to pair a particular extra virgin olive oil with a certain dish. For example, you may want to pair a more peppery extra virgin olive oil, like our 100% California Reserve Miller’s Blend, with a single ingredient such as fresh mozzarella. That combo allows the olive oil to shine through.
Here’s how to conduct a thorough tasting.
First, pour about a tablespoon of oil into a wine glass, or similarly tapered glass. Pro tip: expert olive oil tasters sip from blue olive oil tasting glasses, so the color of the oil doesn’t affect their perception of the taste!
Then, cover the glass with one hand while you hold the bowl of the glass in the other hand to warm the oil. You want the oil to be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit – considered the best temperature for tasting.
Next comes the “Four S’s,” as described by Nancy Ash, a trained olive oil taster and owner of the consulting firm Strictly Olive Oil:
1. SWIRL – While you cover the top of the glass with one hand, swirl the oil to release the aromas.
2. SNIFF – Uncover the glass and hold the top up to your nose and quickly smell the oil. The scent is key to the oil’s fruitiness. “You want to get one big sniff impression of the oil,” says Ash.
3. SLURP – Take a sip of the oil while also “sipping” a bit of air. The slurping action combines the oil with the air and spreads it throughout your mouth. Notice the oil’s “smell” in your mouth – the retro-nasal aromas – as well as the different sensations throughout your mouth.
4. SWALLOW – Don’t worry, it’s just a small amount of oil! Notice if there is a peppery or stinging sensation in your throat, and how long the sensation lingers.
While tasting the oil, keep in mind the three positive attributes of true extra virgin olive oil:
— Fruitiness, which you can sense from smelling the oil.
— Bitterness, reflected in a pleasantly bitter taste. “It’s a natural expression of the olive,” says Ash.
— Pungency, the peppery or stingy sensation in your throat when you swallow the oil.
If you plan to sample another extra virgin olive oil, take a bite from a tart green apple followed by a sip of water. That will cleanse your palate.
That said, slurp away!
California Olive Ranch