Conrad Bölicke wants to get olive oil out of the “fat corner”. “We tend to compare the extraction of the oil with the art of the winemaker,” says the founder of the arteFakt olive oil campaign from Wilstedt in Lower Saxony. For olive oil taster and author Michaela Bogner from Munich, oil has never been as good as it is today. When shopping, however, many feel overwhelmed.
The selection is huge and the term “extra virgin” is inflationary on almost every bottle. So what should you consider when buying?
Unfortunately, quality is not recognized by the label or by the price, experts say. The best quality can only be recognized by smell and taste.
Highest level native extra
According to an EU regulation, olive oil is divided into different quality classes. The highest level “extra virgin” should be reserved for oils that smell and taste perfect and have minimal fruitiness. In addition, there is “virgin olive oil” with slight unpleasant notes and “olive oil”.
The latter is a mixture of sensorially very defective oil that needs to be refined, with a small proportion of virgin oil. Refining makes the oil tasteless, but it loses its nutritionally valuable bioactive substances. “Native” means extraction by exclusively mechanical processes and without heat treatment.
Experts criticize that the largest area of extra virgin olive oil is fraudulent labeling these days. “The EU olive regulation dates back to the 1990s and has very industry-friendly chemical-analytical values,” says Bogner, author of the book “SuperOlio.” Conrad Bölicke also complains that many of the limit values are too lax. An olive oil that has more than 0.4 percent free fatty acids is never free from off-flavours. However, the law allows up to 0.8 percent for the higher class.
A new generation of producers is processing olives typical of the region with innovative oil mill technology into highly aromatic oils, explains Michaela Bogner. In Italy alone there are 540 long-established olive varieties: yet the oil is only extracted from 100.
The expert is a defender of a new category of olive oil, which she, like her book, calls “SuperOlio”: “Today, the oils of the main producers are in the same category of products as those of the industrial bottlers. But these oils are worlds apart, that the consumer cannot distinguish on the label. That is a big problem.”
knowledge and practice
As with wine, a whole range of reliable information is needed, right down to the individual producer, locations and varieties of olives, says Conrad Bölicke. And you should know important things about the oil. It is primarily a fruit oil, not a grain or seed oil, he explains.
In addition to the polyunsaturated fatty acids in the olive stone, the olives convert fructose into monounsaturated fatty acids during the ripening process. Especially the latter with polyphenols and vitamin E are the reason why olive oil is considered healthy.
In order to recognize the quality, an accompanied tasting is recommended for beginners. Sharpen your sense of smell and taste and learn what pure, flawless olive oil really smells and tastes like.