Italy is at levels of excellence – also – in the production ofolive oil: a market worth about 2 billion euros, thanks to 250 million olive trees cultivated on 1.2 million hectares of land which makes the Belpaese the second European producer behind Spain. But to know what we bring to the table and avoid running into fraud and fraud, we need to be aware and know how to recognize what is good from what is not. Here are some tips to learn to distinguish theextra virgin olive oil from other oils and to choose the right one.
The classification of olive oils
Not all olive oils are the same: starting with the finest, here is the category of “Vergini” oils, of which “Extra Virgin” oils represent absolute excellence, always to be preferred.
Virgin olive oil. The legislation defines as "virgin" olive oils those "obtained from the fruit through purely mechanical (and non-chemical) operations and without any mixing or addition of oils of other nature". In general, the acidity levels (oleic acid) of this type of pressing can reach 2%.
Extra virgin olive oil. According to the minimum quality standards set by European legislation, we talk about "Extra Virgin Olive Oil" when yours acidity levels do not exceed 0.8% and when its extraction takes place exclusively by cold mechanical methods, ie at temperatures below 28 degrees. Cold extraction ensures that the oil does not undergo alterations caused by different thermal conditions.
Olive oil. Olive oil, which is commonly sold in supermarkets alongside extra virgin olive oils, is obtained from one blend of refined oil and virgin oil with a maximum acidity of 1.5%. By refined oils we mean oils subjected to chemical procedures aimed at lowering their acidity, bleaching them and sometimes even deodorising them: the frying oils, of that light and semi-transparent color, are refined.
Olive-pomace oil. It is the least prized of the olive oils on the market. It is obtained from a mixture of olive-pomace oils treated by the use of solvents and virgin olive oils. Its acidity does not exceed 1.5%.
How to choose oil: practical advice
It is not always easy to distinguish an extra virgin olive oil of inferior quality, also because not all the characteristics can be perceived to taste: for example, when tasted, it is impossible to grasp its acidity because the tickle in your throat that you feel tasting some variety of oil, above all the "strong" ones of the South, if anything, say of a high presence of polyphenols and therefore of beneficial elements for our organism. Here are some tips.
Read the label well … and the bottle. The labels are now "talking" and are the identity card of the product. On this fact, it is mandatory to indicate the geographical origin of the olives. The PDO designation of origin, for example, indicates that the oil was obtained 100% from Italian olives; to underline however that there are also extra virgin olive oils obtained from European Community olives which are not necessarily of inferior quality. But a little further cleverness is to look at those oils packaged in dark or foil-covered bottles: it is a precaution to prevent the squeezing of light and is usually a sign of a quality product.
Prefer filtered oils. If you let yourself be attracted by a label that reads "unfiltered" think about it for a moment: despite the aura of authenticity, the unfiltered oil is actually less stable. The filtered oil, on the other hand, ensures that the quality of the product lasts longer.
Eye to the price. It is really difficult for a good extra virgin olive oil to cost less than 7 euros per liter. Be wary of exaggerated promotions.
Open eyes and nostrils. Extra virgin olive oils have a bright color ranging from green to yellow, not a pale and transparent color. Also to the smell "they are recognized" with intense aromas. In conclusion. Odorless and colorless? It is not extra virgin.
Prefer organic oils. The quality of extra virgin olive oil can be threatened by the use of pesticides to eliminate parasites that settle in olive groves. But also the presence of acidity correctors.