The Virgin taste test
Extra virgin olive oil has become an ever-popular ingredient around the world, known for its flavour and versatility, and often considered to have greater health benefits than other oils. They are perfect to eat with a salad, fish, meat, pasta, or simply with mozzarella. They also make a very good gift if you are invited somewhere for dinner.
You should have two types of extra virgin olive oil in your kitchen; one with a delicate and soft taste to pour on dishes such as fish, salads and mozzarella, and another more fruity and robust to pour on your pasta, meat or raw ingredients.
Here, Stephanie Lerouge, regional F&B buyer, Eataly provides her expert advice on how to select an olive oil. Eataly offers a wide variety of excellent extra virgin olive oils from different regions across Italy.
The first thing to note is that olive oil should be tasted on its own, as one might for any other ingredient. Another crucial aspect is that you can perceive much of an olive oil’s characteristics through its smell. There are five important steps to tasting the flavour of an olive oil:
There are five important steps, also bearing in mind that you can perceive much of an olive oil’s characteristics through its smell:
- Pour a small amount of oil (around one tablespoon) into a small tapered glass.
- Hold the glass in one hand and use your other hand to cover the glass while swirling the oil to release its aroma. Think about whether the aroma is delicate, herbaceous or strong.
- Uncover the glass and inhale deeply from the top. Think about whether the aroma is mild or strong. You may want to write down descriptions of the aromas that you detect at this point.
- Slurp the oil. This is done by sipping a small amount into your mouth while ‘sipping’ some air as well. When done correctly you will make a slurping noise. Slurping emulsifies the oil with air and helps to spread it throughout your mouth. This gives you the chance to savour every nuance of flavour with just a small sip.
- Swallow the oil, noticing whether it leaves a stinging sensation in your throat.
Each step focuses on a specific positive attribute in the oil:
- By inhaling we evaluate the olive fruit aroma (fruitiness).
- By tasting it we further evaluate the aroma retro-nasally as well as determining amount of bitterness on our tongues.
- Last, we determine the intensity of the oil’s pungency in our throats as we swallow it.