10 Things to Consider Before Buying Your Next Bottle of Olive Oil

buying extra virgin olive oil

There are many different variables to consider when buying olive oil, making it hard to make an informed decision. When faced with choosing which oil to buy, you may find it hard to recognise which ones are high quality. Therefore, we have put together a helpful list of 10 things to consider before buying your next bottle of olive oil.

1. Not all oil is the same!

Extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil, and olive oil, they’re all the same, right? Wrong. Oils are not all the same and knowing the difference between them allows you to buy a better product. Only extra virgin olive oil is 100% freshly pressed olives. For olive oil to be labelled extra virgin, it must have a particular aroma that distinguishes it from others, be free of defects, and have acidity below 0.8% per 100 g. Virgin olive oil differs from extra virgin olive oil as it has a higher level of acidity. Olive oil is obtained through refining, and for this reason, it is a product of much lower quality.

2. The colour may not matter as much as you think

When looking for a high-quality extra virgin olive oil, colour is not a quality parameter used by panel testers. Oils of excellent quality can vary from straw yellow to deep green. The amount of chlorophyll present determines the colour of olive oil. If the oil has a richer green colour, the chlorophyll level is higher. The amount of chlorophyll depends on the variety of the olives used, level of ripeness and processing temperatures. Some brands will package their olive oil in transparent bottles to draw your attention to the rich colour, although this is terrible for preserving the quality of the oil. Olive oil should be stored and sold in dark bottles that protect the oil from sunlight.

 

3. It should taste bitter and spicy

Before purchasing olive oil, if it is possible, we suggest tasting the oil. Good olive oil should be fruity, with a good balance of bitterness and pungency. The aroma of the oil should remind you of the taste of fresh olives. In quality olive oil’s these properties are harmoniously balanced by complex aromas and aftertastes, which gradually fade. The best extra-virgin olive oils have all these characteristics, which are determined by the polyphenols and antioxidants present.

4. Read the labels

Phrases such as “packaged in Italy” or “bottled in Italy” can be misleading. They do not mean that the oil was produced in Italy or that it was made with Italian olives. Italy produces extra virgin olive oil of great value and is the top consumer of olive oil worldwide. Much of the olive oil you will find will be from olives harvested in other parts of the EU, such as Spain and Greece. Paying attention to the label is essential when buying olive oil. The only way to ensure that you find the best olive oil is if the label states, “Extra virgin olive oil obtained in Italy from olives harvested in Italy”.

5. The First press means nothing

The first squeeze or pressed is an old-fashioned term used on olive oil labels to entice us to buy the product. Today centrifuges are almost always used in the process, and therefore the oil is no longer “pressed”. All extra virgin olive oil is obtained from the first pressing of the olive paste. EU regulations state that this term can be used only when the oil is extracted from the press and not with the centrifuge.

6. Olive oil filtered or not filtered?

Is it better to use filtered or non-filtered oil? This is one of the most important questions we ask ourselves when we buy extra virgin olive oil. In commerce, we mainly find extracted extra virgin oil, which is also of higher quality. The purpose of filtration is to eliminate sludge from the oil. All those components, such as the pulp of the olives, the stone and tiny droplets of water, are removed. Removing these substances makes the oil stable, more resistant to aging and lengthens its shelf life.

If it is going to be consumed quickly, nonfiltered extra virgin olive oil is also an option. Nonfiltered extra virgin oil is rich in polyphenols but also sludge. The components left in the oil cause it to age more quickly than filtered oil, meaning it should be consumed within three weeks.

7. Conservation: the three enemies of oil

One of the most important aspects when buying extra virgin olive oil is knowing how to keep all its precious qualities unaltered. The preservation of extra virgin olive oil follows exact parameters.

When bought, you should choose dark glass bottles or other containers which protect it from light. Another sworn enemy of oil is heat. Ensure you keep it between 12°-18°C (54°-18°F), and away from oven or stovetops. After having opened it, it should always be closed with stoppers which ensure an airtight closure. This will avoid large quantities of oxygen entering the bottle. Even an excellent extra virgin oil can go rancid if left open. Oil can also absorb bad smells, so never keep it under the sink or near detergents, as it could affect its taste.

8. Does oil perish?

As opposed to many wines that get better with age, extra virgin olive oil perishes. Just like all-natural fruit juices, taste and aroma begin to deteriorate after a few months from pressing. A decline that accelerates when the package is opened. High quality producers store the new oil into steinless steel tanks under Argon gas or CO2 to maitain the freshness. They only bottle to order, therefore the life of that pruduct will be lengthen.
Some people may say you can freeze extra virgin olive oil, although in doing this, you significantly reduce the presence of polyphenols. This is not to say the oil cannot be frozen. Our suggestion, however, is not to freeze extra virgin olive oil and to appreciate it when it is fresh and at the top of its nutritional properties.

9. Does oil have an expiration date?

When buying extra virgin olive oil, you should carefully check the information on the label. The date of expiration should be listed on the label. Extra virgin oil should be consumed within 18 months from bottling; however, high-quality extra virgin olive oil can also be consumed after this period. Some labels will also include when the oil was manufactured and packaged. If you want to buy an extra virgin oil with the guarantee that it is fresh, you should refer to this date.

10. No to bargain prices!

Another factor that disorients us is the price of extra virgin olive oil. On the market, you can find bottles that range from $4 to $50 per litre, which can generate a lot of confusion. Be careful not to be attracted by “super convenient” bottles. Producing quality oil costs money, especially in Italy, and the price of a good quality Italian extra virgin olive oil can easily be upwards of $50. A low-price oil often indicates the low quality or that it is produced with EU or non-EU oils.

The costs related to extra virgin olive oil production varies according to the product and the production techniques. When we buy oil in supermarkets, we are almost certainly buying a product with standardised organoleptic quality. A quality extra virgin olive oil, produced by high quality, small producers, is mostly handled by hand following traditions mixed with the latest technologies. Each variety made by these people has a distinctive aromatic profile recognisable by taste.

We hope this list of 10 things to consider before purchasing extra virgin olive oil will help you to make an informed decision on your next purchase.

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