You can pay as much as $26 a litre for extra virgin olive oil in supermarkets, but price doesn’t always indicate quality; one of our What to Buy recommendations costs less than $12 per litre.
There’s currently no mandatory standard for extra virgin olive oil sold in Australia, so you have to trust that an oil labelled “extra virgin” is mechanically extracted from top-quality olives, isn’t adulterated or refined, and is stored and handled correctly so that it remains of the highest grade at the point of purchase. CHOICE testing of 28 brands of extra virgin olive oil, however, found this isn’t always the case.
- Nine of the top 10 brands in our taste test (see How we test) are Australian. Freshness is essential to the quality of extra virgin olive oils, so local oils have the edge over imported as they’re able to reach your supermarket shelf faster.
- Half the oils on test – most of which are imported from Italy and Spain – don’t meet international standards for “extra virgin” (see Jargon Buster and the results table).
How we test
We test supermarket olive oils, all labelled “extra virgin”. We exclude flavoured oils and only include the most popular oil of each brand, according to its manufacturer/distributor.
Quality tests A single bottle of each oil is tested against the International Olive Council trade standard for olive oil, which defines “extra virgin” and sets criteria for purity and quality. Oils must meet both chemical and organoleptic (sensory) requirements in order to comply. The standard isn’t mandatory in Australia, but is one of the most widely recognised and accepted international guides to the essential elements of genuine extra virgin olive oil. Both chemical and organoleptic tests were conducted by the NSW Government Department of Industry & Investment’s IOC-accredited Olive Oil Testing Service at Wagga Wagga, NSW.
Show judging taste test Our expert tasters, all members of the IOC-accredited sensory panel, taste the same batch of each oil (without knowing brands) and agree on a score, following the Australian Olive Association’s 20-point sensory scoring system.
Did you know?
Olive oil is rich in “better for you” monounsaturated fats and contains a wide variety of valuable antioxidants. Some of the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil include reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, lower levels of bad cholesterol and protection against various forms of cancer. It’s a healthier substitute for saturated fats such as butter or palm oil, but bear in mind that it still contains the same amount of kilojoules as any other fat.