Not all extra virgin olive oils are the same. How to find a top extra virgin olive oil!
On the market there are virgin olive oils for just a few euros and extremely expensive ones. In general, it is unlikely that a 100% Italian* extra virgin olive oil below 18 €/l (retail price in Germany) is good. But it is also true that extra virgin olive oils in the price segment of 30-40 € per bottle are not always of top quality.
Let's see how you orientate yourself and select an excellent product in the end. Documentation is important to avoid purchases that do not meet expectations. We have created a short guide and invite you to read it. It will help you navigate through the jungle of offers and sensational advertisements and recognise the quality of a great extra virgin olive oil.
Young olive oil is like an old good wine
Extra virgin olive oil does not improve with ageing like good old wine. Instantly after the olives are pressed, an unstoppable and progressive oxidation process begins. Therefore, in order to obtain a top-quality olive oil, a controlled and precise production process is essential. Thus, not only olives as raw material, but also the storage time and type after harvesting (from our point of view almost the primary criterion!), milling, bottling and good keeping at home are decisive for the excellent and long-lasting quality.
Have you ever had an extra virgin olive oil that is already rancid a few weeks after opening, even if its best-before date is still far in the future? You probably purchased an oil in a considerably advanced oxidation status, even if this was not immediately perceptible on the palate.
Some of our customers also believed that they were receiving an excellent product by buying an oil with acidity of 0.4% and peroxides in the order of 14 meqO2/kg. Today they know this is not the case. Such high values indicate unsuitable storage of the oil produced and a tendency to spoil quickly. The oxidation process is already well underway.
What is acidity?
Admittedly, the European directive accurately classifies that an extra virgin olive oil may have a maximum acidity of 0.8 %. An extra virgin olive oil with acidity of less than 0.3 % is not to be equated with one of 0.4 %. The difference of 0.1 % alone seems tiny, but it is considerable. And what does this value reveal us?
Scientifically speaking, it is an indicator of the hydrolytic rancidity of the oil, expressed as a percentage of oleic acid (an oil with 0.2 % acidity contains 2 g of oleic acid per 100 g of oil). Translated, this value indicates the quality of the raw material.
The healthier and fresher the fruit, the better the values. In the case of extra virgin olive oils with a high acidity level, it is most likely that unsuitable, poor quality or ground olives have been used. But it can also mean:
- long storage of the olives from harvesting to pressing. This also gives an indication of the actual regionality of the product.
- a challenging year, marked by unfavourable weather, too much rain and parasites.
What are peroxides?
The European directive states that the peroxide value in extra virgin olive oil must be less than 20 meqO2 / kg. It is an indicator of the oxidative rancidity of the oil as well as the ageing of the product. The lower this value is during production, the better the finished product will preserve over time. A higher peroxide level may indicate damage to the olive pulp, either because of significant parasitic attack or due to the harvesting method or extreme atmospheric conditions (hail) around the time of harvest.
Other reasons may include:
- Nonoptimal milling and pressing process
- not adequate preservation and storage of the oil produced
How can I be sure that I am buying a super extra virgin olive oil?
Not all extra virgin olive oils are the same and not all are equally good. Even if the packaging looks pretty and expensive. Today's super oils are richer in valuable components than the ones of the past and maintain their freshness and good taste longer.Such an olive oil can even retain its pleasant taste for more than two years if stored properly. But please don't let it stand that long ;-)
If you buy online from a specialist retailer, at least these few points should be taken into account. Prefer oils with an acidity level below 0.3% and peroxides below 9 meqO2/kg. The recipient should be made of metal can or opaque glass. The safety cap should be present on the bottle or canister. It also limits the exchange of oxygen between the inside and outside of the container.
Ultimately, store it at home in a cool place (15-24 ° C) away from heat sources and direct sunlight.
Do you have any questions? Feel free to send us your comments and opinions.
* Exclusively Italian production from olives that have been grown and processed in Italy.
Photo credits: F. Zenobi