If you’ve ever attended a wine tasting before, then you know that there is a very particular technique professional sommeliers follow, from observing the color of the wine to swirling it around the glass before dipping their nose inside to give it a sniff. But did you know that there is a proper way to…
June 7, 2021
If you’ve ever attended a wine tasting before, then you know that there is a very particular technique professional sommeliers follow, from observing the color of the wine to swirling it around the glass before dipping their nose inside to give it a sniff.
But did you know that there is a proper way to taste olive oil, too?
According to the International Olive Oil Council (IOC), the first sensory analysis of olive oil began at the Institute of Fats in Seville, Spain during the 1970s. In 1981, the IOC began a study of olive oil tasting and analysis methods. They wanted to find a more objective way to assess an olive oil’s sensory properties. Finally, in 1987, olive oil experts in six different countries developed a standardized method, which has since then been adopted by the IOC and many olive oil professionals around the world.
So how exactly does this method work? Let’s get into it.
To set up your tasting, grab a few small cups or shot glasses and have a glass of water nearby. Note: there is actually a professional olive oil tasting cup! They are typically small plastic cups shaped like fishbowls. The cups are tinted blue in order to prevent the taster from any color bias.
You may also want to have a slice of apple ready, which you can use to cleanse your palate in between tastings.
Why it’s done: Have you ever eaten an orange after drinking coffee? You may have noticed that it tasted bitter and very different from when you enjoyed that orange on an empty stomach. This is because the coffee you just drank is still lingering on your taste buds!
It’s the same thing when tasting olive oil. Food, beverages, and smells can linger in our senses, interfering with our ability to more objectively smell and taste the olive oil. Therefore, before tasting olive oil, it’s important that you clear all of your senses so that you can fully experience the olive oil.
How to do it: Don’t smoke, eat, or drink at least one hour before tasting. Avoid any strong aromas or fragrances around you, like flowers, plants, perfumes, and foods. Many olive oil tasters find that the best time to taste is first thing in the morning before they have had anything to eat or drink and their mind is fresh.
Why it’s done: Yes, temperature matters! At around 81*F, olive oil releases certain sensory properties. You’ll be able to smell and taste it much better at this temperature.
How to do it: To warm the oil, pour a small amount of olive oil into your cup. Place one hand around the bottom of the cup and the other hand on top, covering the opening. Then, gently rub your hands left and right in order to heat the olive oil inside.
Why it’s done: Similar to wine, the way an olive oil smells can tell us a lot about its characteristics. Think about it like this: half of what you experience when you eat is through your sense of smell! Tasting olive oil is no different.
How to do it: Remove your hand that’s covering the top of the cup, then bring the opening of the cup under your nose. Inhale through your nose and take note of what you smell.
The first sensation you can look for is the olive fruitiness. You may also be able to perceive secondary notes like flowers, artichokes, tomato leaf, grass, almond, pepper, apple, and even banana!
Why it’s done: It may seem strange to sip olive oil on its own, but trust us: it’s the best way to truly taste all of its properties! Your tongue can perceive a variety of attributes, but we’re primarily focused on the olive oil’s fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency.
How to do it: This is where things can get a bit tricky! The official way to taste olive oil is to perform what is known as the strippaggio. There is no English translation for this Italian word, but you can think of it as aerating the olive oil using your mouth.
Take a small sip of the olive oil. Then, take one or two sharp breaths through your teeth, sucking air vigorously through your mouth. This action should spray the olive oil throughout your entire mouth, allowing you to fully taste it. This also allows you to perceive the fruitiness of the olive oil through the back of the nose.
When you taste olive oil, you should be able to sense sweetness on the front of your tongue, bitterness on the back of your tongue, and pungency throughout your whole mouth but particularly in the back of your throat.
Why it’s done: For consumers, it can be helpful to write down some notes about each olive oil that you taste so that you can go back and remember which ones you liked or better understand how to use an olive oil in your kitchen. This is also a helpful technique for understanding if an olive oil in your pantry has gone rancid!
But for olive oil professionals, the tasting process can provide deep insight into an olive oil’s history and attributes. The better they can take notes and assess each olive oil, the more they will be able to pass on their analysis to you as a consumer.
How to do it: In a small notebook or on a piece of paper, write down what you smell and taste in the olive oil. Download our tasting notes PDF to help guide you in your note-taking. And remember: the more you taste olive oil, the better you will get at perceiving even the smallest sensations!
When tasting olive oil, your nose and tongue can perceive a variety of attributes, but we’re primarily focused on the olive oil’s fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency.
The senses which are used for extra virgin olive oil sensorial analysis are smelling, tasting, and feeling (tactile sensation).
Performing the stripaggio helps distribute the oil on the tongue but also helps any aromatic sensations reach the nose. The way in which perceive these attributes is as follows:
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