How to Taste

Formal extra virgin olive oil tasting process

  1. An illustration of a person swirling extra virgin olive oil in a tasting glass

    Swirl

    Begin by pouring a tablespoon of olive oil into a small glass. Cup the bottom of the glass in your hand to warm the oil; cover the top with your other hand and swirl gently to release the aromas.

  2. An illustration of a person smelling the aroma of extra virgin olive oil from a tasting glass.

    Smell

    Bring the glass to your nose and smell the oil. Take a note of the aromas.

  3. An illustration of a person slurping extra virgin olive oil from a tasting glass.

    Slurp

    Next, take a slurp. As you do so, touch your tongue to the back of your top teeth and inhale. This spreads the oil in your mouth and helps release the flavors of the olive oil.

  4. An illustration of a person finishing their tasting of extra virgin olive oil with an empty tasting glass.

    Swallow

    Finally, swallow the oil and take note of the flavors you experience.

Source: from Nancy Ash, Strictly Olive Oil

A mild stinging in your throat is a good thing and demonstrates that the oil is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols.
Bitterness at the back of your tongue is also a good thing and is a sign that what you are tasting is indeed an extra virgin olive oil.

Tasting wheel

How to describe what you’re tasting

Our tasting wheel is a great tool for how to accurately describe the intricate flavors you experience while sampling extra virgin olive oil. High quality extra virgin olive oil should taste like fruit and fresh herbs, ranging from mild to complex and diverse, whereas bad oil tastes like oil. The wheel below will help you build a vocabulary with which to describe extra virgin olive oil:

 

a chart depicting quality and flavor of extra virgin olive oil

© Maia Hirschbein (adapted from Sue Langstaff and Richard Gawel)