Not all olive oils are created equal, and if you are looking for the best quality and best tasting olive oils, you should know what to look for – beyond the pretty bottle and exotic ‘Italian-style’ label. You should also look up the taste qualities of particular oils – such as ‘nuttiness’.
The quality of the oil:
- The highest quality olive oil is always cold-pressed.
- Only cold-pressed oils are called extra virgin olive oils. They are unrefined and therefore far healthier than heat-extracted oils. But the quality aspect doesn’t stop there. The oil must be protected from heat and light once bottled.
- Always look for olive oil in a dark brown or green bottle (not plastic), labeled Extra Virgin.
The taste of the oil:
A top quality extra-virgin olive oil will contribute significantly to the taste of the dish. In this case, the oil is an ingredient rather than a medium for cooking.
- The highest quality olive oils are made from the highest quality olives. That makes sense, but oil made from the same olives grown in different places, will have variances in taste. Olives need to be grown in hot, semi-arid areas, but there’s a huge difference in soil composition in such areas around the world – and this affects taste.
- Oil made from olives picked straight off the tree will have a distinctive ‘bitter quality’ that is highly prized by chefs around the world. The olives need to picked and the oil pressed, at just the right time too.
- Look for oils from dedicated and award winning olive oil producers – not supermarket brand oils.
Features of the best olive oils:
The best olive oils have at least one or two distinctive flavours – or ‘notes’. The most prized olive oils have complex flavours that are combinations of different taste elements. This complexity is rates in the same way wine is assessed- with quite a bit of pomp and ceremony.
In fact, there is such competition among olive oil manufacturers, and such heights they can achieve when it comes to quality and taste, that there is an international competition, held each year to find the world’s best olive oils.