We have already discussed how consumers are confused by the various offerings of olive oils on the market with different names and a wide price range. In one of our past blogs, we explained the classification of olive oils, stating that the label “olive oil” indicates that the oil has undergone refining, while virgin and extra virgin oils are obtained exclusively through mechanical processes without chemical additives.
However, oils of questionable quality with the label “extra virgin olive oil” can be found in the market. Today, we will delve into this issue and discuss whether labels can help us distinguish them.
A recommendation for the average consumer is to learn to recognize quality through tasting, which can be done at guided tastings in the House of Istrian Olive Oil. This way, you will learn to differentiate positive characteristics in smell and taste from negative ones, making it easier to choose quality oil.Additionally, we always recommend buying extra virgin olive oils from a trusted source.
Reviewing the label and additional information on the oil bottle provides only the first insight into the seriousness of the manufacturer and the potential quality of the product. The law is not particularly detailed in this regard, leaving it to the goodwill of the manufacturer to decide what information to include on the label.
First and foremost, it is essential to buy a dark bottle labeled extra virgin olive oil, specifying the actual producer and the country of origin, not just the broader production area (e.g., EU). Some producers, in addition to the label Extra Virgin Olive Oil, add the words Premium or Ultra Premium. This is a way for producers to distinguish themselves from “ordinary” extra virgin olive oils of very low quality, mainly sold in non-specialized stores.
Most producers only include the mandatory table of average nutritional values per 100 ml on the bottle. This shows the specific composition of olive oil, with a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids, which are crucial for its stability compared to other plant oils, and polyunsaturated fatty acids containing essential omega-3 and omega-6 in an optimal ratio for the human body.
For foods with unsaturated fatty acids, a natural fat-soluble antioxidant, vitamin E, is always present alongside them. Its role is vital for binding free radicals.
Table 1: Nutritional values or average nutritional value per 100 ml
|3500 kJ/850 kcal
|Fat from which
Saturated fatty acids
Monounsaturated fatty acids
Polyunsaturated fatty acids
|Carbohydrates from which
The above table is very similar for all producers of extra virgin olive oil. However, you will rarely find an additional table indicating the qualitative characteristics of the oil in the bottle, as shown in Table 2. One reason for this is that these analyses are expensive, and the parameters can change over time if the oil is not stored properly.
According to international classification, extra virgin olive oil can have a maximum of 0.8 free fatty acids. However, this category is broad, and top-quality oils will have a number as low as 0.3 or 0.4.
Table 2: Qualitative characteristics
|Acidity /free fatty acids
If the bottle of extra virgin olive oil includes qualitative characteristics, it will be clearer that you have a quality oil. However, most producers do not provide this information, so we recommend educating yourself in terms of sensory analysis, learning to recognize quality oil through tasting.
How to recognize genuine extra virgin olive oil? Sensory analysis, which consists of defining the smell and taste of the oil, is crucial in evaluating the quality of virgin olive oils. It involves identifying the aroma and flavor in the oil.
In freshly produced olive oil, there is a high content of chlorophyll, giving the oil an intense green color. Over time, this color will diminish towards yellow-green. For understanding the quality of the oil, the color is not essential. Therefore, blue cups are used in professional evaluations to ensure that the color does not influence the oil assessors.
During sensory analysis, the oil is first smelled. Quality extra virgin olive oils will have a fresh fruity aroma, often reminiscent of olives, olive leaves, freshly cut grass, almonds, green apples, and tomatoes. If the oil has a musty or vinegary smell, it is considered flawed and not good.
After the aroma, the main element of assessment is the taste, where we look for spiciness and bitterness in the oil. If the oil is flat and lacks both spiciness and bitterness, then it is not of high quality in terms of polyphenol content, influencing our health.
For more information on why olive oil is bitter, read our next blog.