Extra virgin olive oil is a natural product: a real “fruit juice”. For this reason, it is a high-quality oil that offers some healthy benefits, unlike other fats and oils.
A top quality extra virgin olive oil is the oily juice obtained from olives in perfect conditions of ripeness, sourced from a healthy olive tree, having obtained the oil from the fresh fruit and avoiding any type of handling or processing that could alter the chemical nature of its components, during extraction and storage alike.
The quality of extra virgin olive oil is basically determined
through two criteria:
Its chemical parameters (including the degree of acidity, state of oxidation and abnormal components). And the sensory analysis or tasting.
Aroma and flavour
The aroma and flavour are qualities of the oil that are defined in the sensory analysis or tasting by a group of expert tasters.
Olive oil is the food with the strictest and most exacting regulations, governed by Commission Regulation (EEC) 2568/91 and subsequent amendments.
. This normative framework is directed at classifying the oil into: Extra Virgin Olive Oil; Virgin Olive Oil; or Lampante Olive Oil.
The sensory analysis
Sensory analysis is a scientific discipline used to evaluate a food. Any oil put on the market must have an organoleptic analysis made by an authorised Tasting Panel and an analysis of the physical and chemical characteristics, in order to verify that it complies with the parameters.
The tasting panel
The tasting panel is formed by a group of 8 to 12 selected, well-trained testers. Navarra has its own Tasting Panel, accredited by ENAC (Spanish Accreditation Body), according to standard ISO 17.025, based at EVENA (Navarre Viticulture and Oenology Station) in the town of Olite.
Its work consists in using a tasting sheet to evaluate the presence of positive and negative attributes and to indicate these attributes and their intensity. The tasting is always blind. This means that the tasters are unaware of the source or origins of the samples. The sensory analysis is purely technical, far removed from the descriptive and entertaining tasting notes directed at consumers.
1.The taster first uncovers the glass, brings it to his nose and takes in the aromas retained in the glass by the watch glass and which are only perceived in the gaseous phase.
2. He then sips a small amount, the taste is located in the oral cavity and on the tongue, the oil is swilled to coat the mouth and tongue and then swallowed. The final step is to await the aftertaste, the evolution and persistence of the oil in time, to assess the intensity of the bitterness and pungency, a stimulus located in the throat.
3. The sensations perceived, whether these are positive or negative attributes, are noted down on a tasting score sheet as well as the intensity of the flavour (flavour+aroma) and whether the fruitiness is green or ripe. The taster will also note the persistence of the bitterness and the pungency in the mouth feel and throat.
If the oil has no negative attributes, then the taster will classify it as EXTRA VIRGIN.
The room must be free from odours and noise and it must have booths separated by screens. In each booth there are 8 blue-violet coloured glasses of oil, covered by watch glasses and placed on heaters in order to maintainthe oil temperature between 26 to 28ºC.
Between samples, the taster clears the taste from his mouth with a small piece of apple or a little water and then repeats the process. After the sensory analysis of four samples, the taster must take a short 15 minute break, outside the tasting room, to avoid sensory fatigue.
He then resumes his work with the other four oils. The taster is capable of describing the fruitiness of the oil, whether it is low, medium or intense, whether it is green or ripe, as well as determining the pungency and bitterness, whether it is balanced, and whether or not it is mild.