how to recognize
a good EVOO
How to recognize a good EVOO
Hallmarks of excellence
Clear guidelines to distinguishing a good oil
Not all olive oils are alike, so it’s important to be able to recognize a good olive oil. Like wines, oils have a complex sensory profile with a wide range of aromatic and gustatory nuances. The taste and flavour of olive oil depends on the soil, the production process and the variety of olive used in the press.
Without a doubt, the finest oils are “organic extra virgin”, with an acidity no higher than 0.8%. There is some confusion about the concept of acidity in olive oil. Many people think that higher acidity means a better oil, when in fact the opposite is true:
Low acidity = High quality / High acidity = Low quality
Acidity is an indicator of quality and has nothing to do with flavour or intensity; basically, it’s a chemical parameter that indicates the amount of free fatty acids in the oil. Higher acidity means more degraded and decomposed triglyceride acids, which become free acids (always present in damaged or poor-quality fruit).
When the level of oleic acid in olives is higher than 2%, they yield what is known as lampante oil. This is often blended and refined with virgin oils and subsequently marketed as non-virgin oil with a lower acidity.
When you see oil on a shelf at your local shop, it’s important to distinguish between refined and virgin oils: if the label doesn’t clearly say “virgin”, you know it’s a refined oil.
Refined oils are obtained by using chemical solvents to extract oil from low-quality olives. As the resulting oil has an unpleasant smell and taste, these parameters must be corrected and the acidity level lowered to make it fit for human consumption in accordance with current food safety regulations.
These refined oils tend to confuse consumers and compete with naturally extracted virgin oils, driving prices down, but they are not good for our health.
Types of oils
Olive oils can be divided into the following categories, from highest to lowest quality:
✓ Organic extra virgin olive oil
This is the king of olive oils, with a maximum acidity of 0.8%. Cultivated and processed with care and respect, organic EVOO is a genuine delicacy appreciated by the world’s most discerning gourmands.
In Spain, its quality is guaranteed by the different regional authorities, who control and certify organic agricultural products via their respective organic agriculture boards or committees, the bodies responsible for ensuring compliance with EEC Regulation 2092/91. This European regulation guarantees that products marketed as organic extra virgin olive oil meet all requirements at each stage in the production process, from the tree to the table.
✓ Extra virgin olive oil
This type of virgin olive oil must also have an acidity of less than 0.8%. It requires carefully, though not organically, cultivated trees and olives harvested at precisely the right time.
✓ Virgin olive oil
This is oil obtained solely by mechanical procedures under controlled conditions to prevent alterations in the oil and without any kind of chemical treatment. It has a maximum acidity of 2%.
✓ Olive oil
This is a blend of virgin and refined olive oils. Refined olive oil is lampante or inferior-grade oil that has been purified. It has a maximum acidity of 1.5%.
✓ Olive pomace oil
This is obtained from the olive pulp left over after the virgin oil has been extracted. It is later mixed with virgin and refined olive oil. It has a maximum acidity of 0.5%.