Ali Coleman
Ali Coleman
13 March 2017

How to find the perfect Extra Virgin Olive Oil

I have been producing extra virgin olive oil for friends and family for circa 15 years now. The time I’ve spent in the industry, the more I realise just how much confusion exists around this impressive condiment. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) in fact is NOT Olive Oil. Confused? Let me help clarify. Luigi at the Olive Grove in Puglia Would you compare a Rolls Royce Phantom to a Vauxhall Corsa? No. Well, EVOO is your Rolls Royce. Manufacturing, processing, performance, history and heritage are all critical to the quality of an Extra Virgin. While Olive Oil can be obtained using chemicals, filtering, mixing of different products from different regions/countries, the Extra Virgin abides by strict protocol. EVOO is simply the healthiest fat on earth, full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances. To obtain this healthy nectar we need to harvest our secular trees without stressing the plants, transform the olives within 24 hours from the harvest to avoid oxidation, and use solely mechanical procedures (washing, crushing, malaxing, separating) to obtain a product exactly as nature intended it. Now enough technical talk. How can you, as a consumer, find a high-quality EVOO.

Here are my 4 simple rules:

  • Read the fine print: make sure the product is clearly marked as Extra Virgin Olive Oil and pay attention to the on the harvest year. It shouldn’t be older than one, why? Unlike wine, the positive attributes of olive oil tend to deteriorate over time.
  • Trust your senses: as an olive oil producer and passionate sommelier, I have learned that basic smell and taste are the most important assets when it comes to understanding good food. Teach yourself how to smell and recognise the typical flavours and aromas of a nice extra virgin olive oil. You’re looking for fruity sensations: citrus, chamomile flowers, artichokes, red and green tomatoes, fresh herbs, almonds to name a few.
  • Attention to detail: focus on positive attributes such as pungency (strong peppery sensation) and bitterness
  • Practice is perfection: Train yourself by trying different extra virgin olive oils, matching them with your gourmet creations to enhance their taste.
Olive Oil What else do you need to know? Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a condiment. Matching it properly with food is key; it’s where you bring the oil to life. On the one hand, you don’t want to overpower your dish, while on the other, it would be a shame to miss the powerful impact a good EVOO could add. There are 2 ways I like to pair EVOO: analogy and contrast. Analogy: a bitter Extra Virgin (take Tuscan for example) matches perfectly with other bitter foods like radicchio and chicory. On the other hand, an extra virgin with intense tomato flavours like the Sicilian can be paired nicely with a fresh salad (or even better, a Caprese). Well-balanced “equilibrati” Extra Virgin Olive Oils can be used with a larger spectrum of meats and vegetables. Contrast: when attempting contrast one must be very careful not to destroy the flavour of the oil by overpowering it with the taste of the dish. For instance, if Radicchio is very bitter, instead of analogy we could match by contrast with a very fruity olive oil with cardoon, green leaves and peppery notes. Another example would be to use a strong peppery EVOO in a fish soup to elevate the taste. So there you are, my little tips to maximising your Extra Virgin Olive Oil (or better yet, Canelli Oil) experience. It took one year to get that bottle to your table, several years to grow secular trees and countless generations to perfect the technique and product. We, Italian producers, put a lot of passion into what we do. My biggest satisfaction is to hear you say “I can feel the difference”, and once you do, it’s like riding a bike: those amazing tastes will last forever in your brain, nose and palate. Enjoy! Feel free to reach out to me for any info, suggestions. Luigi Canelli Founder, Olio Canelli
  • Authentic Food
  • Foodie
  • Producer
  • Olive Oil
  • Written How To
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