Tasting is crucial. It allows becoming familiar and discovering oil in depth, so that the different ways in which it can be used are interpreted correctly: raw, cooked or as a liquid to cover products in preserves.
There is actually no other solution, because tasting is the only possible way. One cannot think to choose oil only based on price or other parameters that do not apply to the product as such. I have always believed that the best way to recognize and appreciate quality is sensory dialogue of different oils on the market.
We necessarily have to choose the most appropriate and functional oil, but especially oil we like the most, because the final outcome must satisfy each one of us.
One should compare all extra virgin olive oils to make a consistent decision. I have firmly repeated this principle on several occasions: consumers must try all extra virgin olive oils on the shelf, with no exceptions. I buy a different oil on each occasion. One could later write down his/her personal feelings and, more importantly, remarks after using oil in different ways. A few simple remarks will do. Eventually, after these sensory experiences, one can have more systematic ideas and choose one, two or three oils to buy and keep at home, depending on preferences and pairings. This is the only way to make informed decisions, which are not simply due to price.
This applies to consumers. There is another issue to be taken into account: professional tasting. This has been pivotal in improving oil production.
Through sensory analysis and comparison of different extra virgin oils, the foundations of quality have been discovered. Let me mention at least three of them: fresh fragrances, cleanness and fluidity to the palate, harmony. Undoubtedly, without numerous tasting courses held, distinguishing factors of local productions wouldn’t have emerged. A vague smell would have been perceived, as in the past, without any special merit.
Or even very bad odours. Now everything has changed. Producers do their job with so much care that they give oils a touch of personality. This is the real turning point. Quality can always be transformed, so much that today extra virgin olive oils are far more enticing and stable than in the past.
And then comes the panel test. I will make use of censorship, though I will express my idea. The useful tool of tasting has sometimes become a blunt weapon in the hands of tasters to reject or promote an oil and they are not always necessarily unbiased. Ideology can impact or force an opinion. In Italy, for instance, it is a real risk and panel analyses can sometimes contradict each other. One often forgets that consumers are the ones entitled to say “I like it, I don’t like it”.
The editorial signed by Luigi Caricato is an excerpt from the third issue of the quarterly paper magazine OOF International Magazine. Buy the third issue of the magazine or subscribe HERE.