Extra virgin olive oil reviews

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  • “Virgin” oil is extracted from olives by a mechanical process without excessive heat, additives or solvents.
  • “Extra virgin” oil, in addition to the above, has low acidity (0.8% or less) and should comply with other technical specifications, as well as being free from taste defects.
  • “Light”, “lite” or “pure” olive oils have been refined through a combination of physical (heat) and chemical processes, resulting in an oil with no distinctive aroma, colour or taste. A small percentage of virgin oil is then mixed with this oil to give it flavour. Refining removes antioxidants, so these oils aren’t as healthy as extra virgin. They don’t have less fat or fewer kilojoules than regular oils.
  • “Cold pressed” and “first press” are outdated and unhelpful marketing terms. All virgin oils have to be “cold extracted” – extracted from the olive without the use of excessive heat (manufacturers can extract more oil from olives with heat but the quality suffers). Traditional hydraulic presses have been almost entirely replaced by centrifuges, and all virgin oil comes from a single extraction – there’s no second press.
  • Olive varieties include Arbequina, Barnea, Coratina, Corregiola, Frantoio, Kalamata, Koroneiki, Leccino, Manzanillo, Pendolino and Picual. Trained tasters can identify a variety by its trademark characteristics; oil from Picual olives (originally from Spain), for example, has peppery, bitter and slightly woody flavours. About 90% of Australian olive oil is produced from 10 of these major varietals.

Broadly speaking:

  • “Early harvest” oils tend to be “robust” (bitter and pungent), with greener characters (such as grassy aromas, green apple aromas, green tomato, etc).
  • “Late harvest” oils tend towards “mild and mellow” or "delicate and mild", with sweeter characters (such as ripe banana aromas, tropical fruit, vanilla, etc.).

But other factors, such as variety and environment, can influence the character of the oils. Consequently, an early harvest Arbequina oil from a warm climate can be milder and mellower than a late harvest Coratina from a colder climate.

 

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