F.A.Q. | The Olive Oil's ABCfrequently asked question
DEFINITION OF "VIRGIN" OLIVE OIL:
• Olio extravergine d’oliva
• Olio di oliva vergine
• Olio di oliva lampante
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE VARIOUS CATEGORIES OF OLIVE OIL:
The differences exist and can be broken down as follows:
• Extravirgin olive oil is an oil whose free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, doesn't exceed 0.8 gr per 100 gr. and its taste must not show any type of defect, getting a valuation of 6 or more.
• Virgin olive oil is an oil whose free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, doesn't exceed 2 gr per 100 gr, and its taste shows defects which do not allow it to get a valuation of 6.
• Lampante olive oil is an oil whose free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, exceeds 2 gr per 100 gr and it cannot be used for human consumpion.
From this we obtain olive oil, made up of a mixture of virgin olive oil and corrected olive oil (lampante oil, which has undergone a chemical process to eliminate the defects). The legislation in this field does not determine a minimum quantity of olive oil which must be present in the mixture, for this reason we can buy olive oil which is made up mostly of corrected oils and in a minimum part of virgin oil that gives it the characteristic colour. It is important to point out that only extravirgin olive oil and virgin olive oil are obtained exclusively from the mechanical pressing of the olives.
WHAT IS THE BEST METHOD FOR HARVESTING THE OLIVES?
Without a doubt harvesting directly from the trees is best, it guarantees that the olives do not touch the ground. There are three different types of harvesting from the trees:
• Manual harvesting (hand stripping), a method nowadays not used due to the excessive cost of manpower and the prolonged times needed for harvesting;
• Assisted method with vibrating tongs hand-held by an operator, useful in small holdings and hillside olive-groves where machinery cannot be used.
• Mechanical harvesting with shakers, the method used mainly in farm companies, seeing as it guarantees a greater output with a considerable saving on costs of manpower, and a more consistent harvest.
Unfortunately in some areas of the Mediterranean the harvesting is still done by gathering the olives from the ground, this method has negative repercussions on the quality of the oil.
WHEN CAN AN EXTRAVIRGIN OLIVE OIL BE DEFINED "FRUITY"?
When a group of certified tasters, the Panel test, during a tasting session, recognize a positive fruity note in the oil, whether it be light, medium or intense. For a fruity note, we mean a sensation of freshness (characteristic of freshly pressed oil), a hint of grass and hay, vegetable notes of almond, artichoke and tomato, but also bitter and pungent sensations which can be determined by the variety of olive, the climate, the period of harvesting and the quality of the crop itself.
IF OLIVE OIL STINGS THE THROAT OR IS BITTER, IS IT A QUALITY OIL OR JUST TOO ACIDIC?
The bitter and stinging sensations are positive characteristics of the oil, in as much as this reveals the presence of antioxidant substances such as polyphenols. Many consumers think this virtue is a defect ("the oil stings the throat"), and think that oil with this taste is an acidic oil. This is absolutely false as the free acid of the oil cannot be tasted because free acid fats are tasteless and odorless, they can only be measured by chemical analysis carried out in a laboratory.
AFTER HOW LONG DOES THE OIL LOSE ITS CHARACTERISTIC QUALITY?
A quality oil, made from healthy olives harvested from the tree at the right degree of ripeness is rich in antioxidant substances such as polyphenols and, if stored in the correct way, can maintain its characteristic qualities for 24 - 36 months.
CAN EXTRAVIRGIN OLIVE OIL BE USED FOR FRYING?
High quality extravirgin olive oil, unlike other oils on the market (sunflower oil, corn oil) contains very little polyunsaturated fats which, if subjected to high temperatures, become instable and release substances that are harmful to our body. For this reason, extravirgin olive oil, having a smoke point which varies between 190°C and 210°C, is considered a stable oil and therefore suitable for frying. Smoke point means the maximum temperature possible before the oil begins to burn and decompose, creating toxic substances.
IS EXTRAVIRGIN OLIVE OIL GOOD FOR OUR HEALTH?
A number of researches confirm that extravirgin olive oil is rich in antioxidant substances, such as vitamin E, polyphenols, phytosterols, and carotenoids, which slow down the ageing process of cells and bones, and prevent cardiovascular diseases and arteriosclerosis. Extravirgin olive oil also lowers the level of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and maintains the correct level of HDL ("good" ) cholesterol, thanks to its high quantities of monounsaturated fatty acids.