The official European Union method for sensory evaluation of virgin olive oils dates back to 1991. The sensory evaluation was included to classify the olive oil into the proper category. It is carried out by a “test panel”, i.e. an official tasting group of specialists qualified in using approved methods. A test panel is an essential tool for both checking oil quality and highlighting the uniqueness of the end product. Using only chemical parameters is not sufficient for guaranteeing product quality. Unlike test panels for food, sensory analysis enables an in-depth assessment of olive oil based on olfactory and tasting factors.
It is not so widely known that human smell and taste have the precision of a scientific instrument and can recognize properties and defects that are not detectable by chemical analysis. Our senses have been trained for thousands of years to keep us alive because if they didn't work, we could consume a substance that is toxic without realizing it is dangerous. Indeed, we have come up through the process of systematic choice and heredity to perceive certain flavors and odors as pleasant or unpleasant. Using only chemical parameters is not sufficient for guaranteeing the product quality. To make it easier to see how sophisticated human senses are, researches has shown that if we mix one ml of tangled olive oil into ten liters of extra virgin olive oil (1:10000 dilution), a group of trained testers can easily recognize the defect, but no significant differentiation will be seen in the results of a chemical analysis. For that reason, we should not wonder why while an olive oil classified as extra virgin only with regard to the chemical analysis, fails to pass a sensory evaluation.
The olive oil sensory profile is related to enzymatic activities which are, by and large, governed by genetic factors, ripening state, mode of olive storage and oil extraction parameters. Through sensory evaluation, specialists, except for positive and negative attributes, they are able to recognize different fruit and vegetable aromas based on the variety of olive and its geographical origin. They can identify aromas like tomato, apple, artichoke, banana, pear, peach, grass, almond, etc.
The right glass for Olive Oil Tasting
Olive oil tasting glass requires a standard glass that has to match some specific and peculiar characteristics. The sensory analysis of olive oil tasting needs to follow precise rules and the use of the right tools. A famous cobalt blue glass is one of them. According to the International Olive Oil Council, an official standard, prescribes the glass for use in the “organoleptic analysis of edible oils.”
Every detail is specified, from its dimensions to the material and design. It has to be made of resistant glass, and it should be dark-colored so that the color of its contents cannot be examined, as this is not a relevant criteria for evaluation. It should be free from scratches or bubbles and the rim shall be even, smooth and flanged. It has to guarantee the maximum steadiness, to prevent the glass from tilting and the oil from being spilled.
Apart from olive oil tastings for professional use, it is very important for consumers to learn how to taste and select olive oil of good quality since the consumption of olive oil has increased lately due to the need for a better quality of life. Descriptions such as "pure olive oil" or "very good" or "premium" are not enough to determine the quality and consumers should seek deeper knowledge in order to protect their own and their family's health.
By attending one of our olive oil tasting workshops you will be able to select the best olive oil for your needs and learn how to create special dishes!