AN INTRODUCTION TO OLIVE OIL TASTING
Olive Oil tasting is becoming increasingly widespread among those passionate about food culture as a fun and enjoyable way to explore the various nuances of this product.
Although at first sight oil tasting looks like a relatively complex activity, it can be learned by any healthy person with a normally developed sense of smell and taste.
Similar to wine tasting, olive oils have a very wide variety of tastes and aromas and learning the basic tasting techniques can both sharpen your palate and allow you to identify what kind of oil you prefer.
Our olive oils are an ideal opportunity for tasting because they provide the most intense sensory experience due to their low acidity and absolute freshness. Moreover, the varieties show great differences and allow learning about the different attributes of olive oil in its purest form.
You will see that after the first attempts, you will make great progress and feel like a real expert compared to full-time amateurs, even if you have a long way to go in deep tasting knowledge.
The best way to discover an oil’s flavour is to taste it without bread or other food. This will allow you to savour the oil’s flavour without any distraction.
Professionals use specially-made blue tasting glasses that are tapered to concentrate the oil’s aroma. The blue colour ensures that tasters aren’t influenced by the colour of the oil, which is not an indicator of quality or flavour profile.
An important companion to tasting glass is a small glass cover called a clock glass. The purpose of the clock glass is to collect and concentrate aromas from the oil and both glasses must be perfectly clean and odour-free.
When tasting at home, a wine glass is a good substitute, covered with a firm lid to trap the aroma from the oil.
When tasting, the ideal oil temperature should be 28°C. Professionals heat their tasting glasses in warm water to precisely control the temperature. However, for home tasting, you can cover the glass and allow it to gently warm in your hand.
The ideal part of the day for tasting is in the morning when we have the freshest senses. During the day the senses are "clogged" by taste and odour sensations.
THE BIOLOGY OF TASTE
The tongue plays a key role in our perception of taste but our taste buds can only detect five basic flavours - salty, bitter, sweet, sour and umami (a taste found in savoury foods). In the vast majority of cases, only two flavours are relevant to olive oil: bitter (receptors located at the back of the tongue) and sweet (receptors at the tip of the tongue).
THE ROLE OF SMELL
Most of what is normally called a taste is an actual scent which is detected retro-nasally. I.e. everything except the basic five flavours is perceived by light volatile molecule receptors located in the nose. It is easy to see that if we plug our nose, we are not able to distinguish between two kinds of completely different spices. That is why it is important not to have a cold or blocked nose during the tasting, otherwise, we are not able to perceive beyond the five basic tastes.
Colour is not a quality that is evaluated during the tasting. The colour of the oil often leads to preconceptions about the flavour and this is why professionals taste from colour glasses. However, some basic information can be found through the colour of the oil; Greener oils tend to come from young green olives whereas golden and yellower oils are usually obtained from riper olives at the end of the season. The best way to see the colour is to pour the oil into a white porcelain bowl.