By Joy Neighbors
Wine drinkers love tastings! They are the perfect opportunity to sample a few different wines, experience the flavors, and decide what you like. But have you ever experienced an olive oil tasting?
Olive oil has been used for thousands of years in cooking. Today olive oil has garnered a lot of press due to its health benefits. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil increases good cholesterol (HDL), aids internal digestion, slows cerebral aging, and prevents heart disease.
And just like with wine, there are several factors to consider when selecting an olive oil: the type, the color, and the tasting profile, which will help you discover some new favorites.
Types of Olive Oil
Virgin – This oil is extracted directly from the fruit and has not been refined.
Extra-Virgin – The oil is extracted using only cold pressure, known as cold pressing. With less than 1% acid, it's derived from the first pressing for the freshest, fruitiest flavor of any olive oil.
Fino – A blend of virgin and extra-virgin olive oils.
Light – This term refers to the color not calories, and has been filtered to remove any sediment.
Pure – A blend of refined virgin and extra-virgin oils.
Any oil bearing the North American Olive Oil Association (NAOOA) logo is certified to be the grade promised.
Grassy – Look for the vegetal flavors of artichoke, cucumber, tomato, fresh grass, or green apples. (Think Granny Smith.)
Floral – This type of oil provides a sweet smooth light flavor similar to almond milk. Fruity flavors include pear, pineapple, citrus, almond, and hazelnut.
Red or White
When compared with wine, a grassy olive oil is more like a young red wine with bright flavors - a bit immature but still charming.
A floral olive oil compares to a mature white wine (think Riesling),
with a light flowery flavor.
How To Taste Olive Oil
There are the five tasting steps, just like with wine.
(And it is suggested to taste a true extra virgin olive oil (EVOO.)
1) Pour a tablespoon of oil into a wine glass.
3) Sniff those aromas! Just like wine, olive oil has a “nose.” These are the most prevalent notes that help you detect the oil's flavor characteristics. (Yes diehards, there is also an olive oil tasting wheel!)
4) Sip the same way you taste wine by taking in a small amount of air and mixing with the oil.
5) Swallow; the oil should have a smooth finish and a tingling sensation in the back of your throat, thanks to the polyphenols (antioxidants) in the oil.
Now head to your local olive oil shop (if you’re so lucky to have one), visit a specialty/gourmet food store, or go online and select a variety of olive oils to begin your exploration.