Extra virgin olive oil reviews


We test 23 olive oils from Australia and Europe to see if they meet 'extra virgin' standards.

Can you trust the 'extra virgin' label on olive oil?


'Extra virgin' is considered to be the highest grade of olive oil, produced from the pressing of good quality olives. But can you trust the label? 

We put 23 extra virgin olive oils to the test to see if they meet international standards, and find out which oils taste best.

In this article:

What you need to know

  • To be 'extra virgin' standard, olive oil needs to meet certain chemical and sensory criteria. 
  • We tested 23 extra virgin olive oils bought from Australian retailers and found five didn't meet the criteria. 
  • The oil may meet the criteria when it leaves the manufacturer, but poor storage and handling along the supply chain can cause it to degrade earlier than it should.
  • Labelling extra virgin olive oil with a "harvested on" date would give consumers a better idea of freshness than a "best before" date. 
  • Store your olive oil in a cool, dark place and use within six months.

What does the 'extra virgin' label mean?

For an olive oil to be labelled extra virgin, the International Olive Council (IOC) says it must meet certain chemical criteria and be free from taste defects as determined by a sensory panel trained to IOC standards. 

We carried out sensory analysis and three different chemical tests of the 23 oils using IOC-approved methods – tests that are designed to check for signs of:

  • fruit damage 
  • poor harvesting operations
  • poor storage of fruit or oil before processing or bottling
  • refining (such as bleaching or deodorising)
  • deterioration due to ageing 
  • deterioration due to poor storage of the bottled oil. 

Any of these issues could mean the oil isn't of extra virgin quality when you buy it – even if it's within its best-before date.

The 18 oils that passed the chemical and sensory tests went on to be assessed in a show judging-style blind tasting. Trained tasters rated the oils out of 100, looking for well-balanced oils with good taste, aromas and fruity flavours.

See How we tested for details. 

Whether cooking, baking or frying, our cooking oil guide will help you find the right one for the job.

Top tasting oils

The top five oils in our show judging were all produced in Australia, with Cobram Estate Classic Flavour scoring 85%, a result worthy of gold medal status. Tasters commented on its "intense fruity nose", "long pepper pungency" and notes of "citrus, artichoke, green corn, green banana and herbs". 

Fellow Australian oils Red Island (79%), Maggie Beer (77%), Rosto Mellow and Woolworths Select Australian (both 76%), and Spanish oil Always Fresh (75%) all achieved silver medal status (75–84%). 

A further four oils, also from Spain – Macro Organic Spanish and Moro El Primero (both 67%), La Espanola (66%) and Woolworths Select Spanish (65%) – achieved bronze medal status (65–74%). 

See the table for details of all oils tested. 

Top tasting oils
Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil Classic Flavour
Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil Classic Flavour
Show judging score: 85%
Price per 100mL: $1.73
Red Island Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Red Island Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Show judging score: 79%
Price per 100mL: $1.29
Maggie Beer Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Maggie Beer Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Show judging score: 77%
Price per 100mL: $2.93
Rosto Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Mellow
Rosto Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Mellow
Show judging score: 76%
Price per 100mL: $1.73
Woolworths Select Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Woolworths Select Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Show judging score: 76%
Price per 100mL: $1.00
Always Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Always Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Show judging score: 76%
Price per 100mL: $1.82

Sensory and chemical test failings

Five oils weren't included in the show judging because chemical or sensory test results fell outside the parameters for extra virgin olive oil as specified in the IOC trade standard. To get a better sense of whether the problem was specific to that particular bottle or batch, a new bottle from the same batch and a new bottle from a different batch for each of the five brands were sent to the lab for analysis. We sent the test results to the companies for their review.

Sensory test failings 

The IOC-accredited sensory panel detected a "rancid" defect in the Minerva and Minos oil samples. A rancid defect is described by the IOC as the "flavour of oils which have undergone an intense process of oxidation". Subsequent tests found the same defect in a new bottle of the same batch for Minerva, but not in a third bottle (of a different batch) which we'd bought from a different store. The defect was detected in bottles from both batches of the Minos oil. 

After conducting its own tests on a retention sample of the same batch of oil, Minerva presented us with evidence that its oil met extra virgin requirements both at the time of production and after having been kept in their cool and dark storage facility, suggesting that less-than-ideal storage conditions had resulted in the deterioration detected in the sample we tested. 

A Minerva spokesperson tells us, "The organoleptic parameters of extra virgin olive oil depend largely on the storage conditions and probably the deviation found was due to storage under wrong conditions (e.g. exposure to light or heat)." She says, "We are fully confident that there is nothing wrong with our products which can definitely maintain their high quality till the best-before date when they are kept under the correct storage conditions." 

The distributor for Minos similarly suggested the rancid findings in our test "resulted from storage, distribution and handling". A spokesperson says, "It is important to note that given the samples were only months away from best-before date, they have spent longer time in the distribution channel potentially exposed to heat and light." She adds, "Minos is a quality EVOO product that has always passed lab tests to qualify it for EVOO status." 

The panel detected a "fusty/muddy sediment" defect in the Squeaky Gate The All Rounder Classic & Fruity oil, a defect which – according to the IOC – is "the characteristic flavour of oil obtained from olives piled or stored in such conditions as to have undergone an advanced stage of anaerobic fermentation, or of oil which has been left in contact with the sediment that settles in underground tanks and vats and which has also undergone a process of anaerobic fermentation". 

The panel detected the same defect in a second bottle of the same batch (bought from a different store in case the first bottle had been affected by poor storage conditions at the retail level), while the third bottle tested (from a different batch) was defect-free. Both samples from the first batch also had the highest FFA percentages in our test, indicating potential damage to the fruit at the time of crushing. 

Squeaky Gate says our findings aren't consistent with the results of its own testing of a retention sample for the batch in question. A spokesperson tells us, "Squeaky Gate employs a robust quality assurance and self-testing regime on an ongoing basis with all of its product batches. On top of farmers' own quality control at production of the olive oil, Squeaky Gate adds further layers of quality control, accreditations and a program of stringent testing including via IOC-accredited laboratories." 

The spokesperson goes on to say, "Unfortunately, Squeaky Gate is not able to control its product through the distribution chain once sold to a wholesaler or retailer, where transport and storage conditions (or even uncontrolled sample transport as in the case of this review) may contribute to a change in the intended taste-profile over time, possibly even degradation of the sample." 

Chemical test failings

Results for one of the three components of the UV absorption test done on the Bertolli Organic and Pukara Estate oils were slightly higher than the limit specified in the IOC standard, indicating the oils may have degraded during storage – despite both being well within their best-before dates. Repeating the test on a new bottle of the same batch produced a similar result for Pukara Estate, and a result just under the limit for Bertolli. Samples from a different batch of both oils met the standard. 

While oils must meet the specified UV absorbance parameters at the time of production, the IOC standard notes it's up to commercial partners in the country of sale whether or not they require compliance with this particular UV absorbance limit when the oil is made available to the end consumer. This caveat isn't present in the Australian Standard for olive oil. 

Responding to our communications, Stuart Maher, managing director of Deoleo Australia and New Zealand, said, "We welcome the results of the CHOICE Extra Virgin Olive Oil Test, which confirm both Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Originale and Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Organic are high-quality, 100% extra virgin olive oils with an enjoyable flavour profile." 

Steve Goodchild of Pukara Estate and signatory to the Australian Olive Association (AOA)'s code of practice, told us it's of concern to him that the test results indicate the oil had aged faster than expected when compared to the same oil stored in more suitable conditions. 

"The real concern in this case is that the oil wouldn't meet the best-before date indicated on the bottle, which again highlights the negative impact of UV light and higher ambient temperature sensitivity of the product when it is exposed to the harsher conditions out there in the market place," he says. "The link between the producer, transport and the retailer are key to achieving the best-before dates that are forecast by the producer.”

Date markings and shelf life 

Unlike wine, extra virgin olive oil doesn't improve with age. It instead starts to deteriorate from the moment it's pressed from the fruit, affecting both taste and nutritional value, so freshness is essential to oil's quality. The closer to its production you use it, the better. For this reason, local oils often have the edge over imported as they're able to reach the supermarket shelf faster.

'Harvested on' or 'pressed on' dates are the best indication of oil freshness, but few products have them on the label, so we're reliant on the accuracy of the best-before date – a prediction of the length of time a product will retain its quality parameters (a timeframe also known as shelf life). 

Different oils degrade at different rates, depending on their chemical composition. Testing of Australian olive oils over five years, for example, found that the true potential shelf life ranges from as low as six months to more than 30 months, with only 40% of oils showing a potential shelf life of more than 18 months. The widely used 'two years from bottling' rule of thumb for best-before labelling is therefore likely to be optimistic. 

The importance and benefits of best-before date accuracy is increasingly being acknowledged by industry. The AOA has long recommended a model for predicting shelf life based on a series of quality tests, although it's expensive – perhaps prohibitively so for smaller producers. More recently a prediction based on one test only – less accurate but cheaper – has been proposed. 

These models work on the assumption that oils are stored in ideal conditions, which in reality is not often the case. So formulas need to be tweaked accordingly. 

We need better labelling

Since the implementation of the Australian Standard for olive oil in 2011, the proportion of oils – both imported and Australian – meeting quality requirements for EVOO has increased, according to Peter McFarlane, whose business monitors compliance with the voluntary AOA Code of Practice protocols. And certainly our recent test results are an improvement on those in our 2010 test when half the oils failed. But there's still room for improvement. 

We should be able to trust that when we buy an extra virgin olive oil, it's exactly that. As consumers, we have no control over the transport and storage of oils before we buy them – poor handling during this time is an issue for producers to follow up with distributors and retailers. 

All we have to go on when selecting a good quality oil – other than the brand – is the date marking on the label. And unfortunately current labelling requirements don't help us choose the freshest. 

We'd like to see extra virgin olive oil producers provide pressed-on or harvest dates on their labels, in conjunction with realistic best-before dates based on an objective test. 

Top 5 tips for choosing and using olive oil

  1. Buy the freshest oil possible. Look for a "harvested on" date, as best-before dates aren't necessarily a good indicator of freshness.
  2. Don't buy oils from stores where they've been displayed near heat sources (such as refrigerator motors) or in a shop window where they're exposed to direct sunlight.
  3. Store in a cool dark place at home (i.e. not next to the stove/oven/window).
  4. Keep your oil tightly stoppered and use it in a timely manner. As a rule of thumb, buy a container size that matches your monthly consumption.
  5. Avoid using olive oil for cooking that requires very high oil temperatures (such as deep frying). 

Is olive oil healthier?

Olive oil is rich in 'better for you' monounsaturated fats and contains a wide variety of valuable antioxidants. According to the Dietitian's Association of Australia, extra virgin olive oil is the main source of fat in a Mediterranean style diet, which research has found to be good for weight control and heart health.

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.

Want to cook with less oil? Find the best non-stick frypans in our induction-compatible frypan reviews .

How we tested

We tested popular brands of olive oil, all labelled 'extra virgin', and excluding flavoured oils. 

CHOICE buyers purchased the olive oil samples direct from retailers according to our own guidelines. At the time of testing each oil had a minimum of five months to go before its best-before date indicated on the label. 

Our test includes both Australian and European oils, so for this article we've referenced the widely accepted IOC Trade Standard rather than the Australian Standard. For the quality criteria we've tested against, the limits – though not the wording – are the same in both standards. Signatories to the AOA Code of Practice must comply with the Australian Standard, but this is a voluntary standard. 

We sent a single, unopened sample of each oil to the IOC-accredited NSW Department of Primary Industries Oil Testing Service at the Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute for chemical and sensory testing using IOC-approved methods. For any oil that failed a test, a new bottle from the same batch and a new bottle from a different batch was sent for analysis. 

Chemical tests 

According to the IOC trade standards, extra virgin olive oil must meet established limits for a range of quality criteria including free fatty acid (FFA) level, peroxide value (PV) and UV absorption at different wavelengths. 

The FFA level is an indicator of oil quality – the lower the percentage the better the quality. It provides a good indication of the fruit condition before crushing, care taken in producing the oil and oil storage conditions. The level can increase if the fruit is damaged, or due to poor handling and storage of fruit between harvest and processing, however it's fairly stable once the oil is bottled. 

The PV is a measure of an oil's oxidation at any given time. High levels can indicate degradation of the oil during processing and storage (primarily through exposure to oxygen, heat or light). 

The UV absorption test may also detect degradation of the oil during storage. UV absorption continues to rise as the oil ages. It may also detect the presence of refined oils. 

Sensory test 

Extra virgin olive oils must have fruity attributes and be free from defects as determined by an IOC-accredited sensory panel of at least eight tasters in order to meet the standard. Defects include fusty/muddy sediment, musty, rancid and winey-vinegary flavours. 

Show judging tasting 

Each oil that passed the chemical and sensory tests was included in a show judging-style tasting. Three trained tasters from the sensory panel tasted the oils "blind" and gave each oil a score out of 100. 

Jargon buster

  • "Virgin" olive oil is extracted from olives by a mechanical process without using chemicals or excessive heat to ensure that it's not altered and that it retains its nutritional value.
  • "Extra virgin" olive 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 oil has been refined through a combination of physical (heat) and chemical processes, resulting in oil with no distinctive aroma colour or taste. A small percentage of virgin oil may be mixed with this oil to give it flavour. Processing reduces the amount of antioxidants, so these oils aren't as healthy as extra virgin. They aren't lower in fat or 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 oil comparison table

We tested 23 extra virgin olive oils, ranging in price from $0.80/100mL to $6.40/100mL. We've listed them below in alphabetical order. To order by another criteria, simply click on the column headings.

Product Recommended Price/
100mL ($)
Country
of origin
Bottle
size (mL)
Price
paid $
Meets 'extra virgin'
quality criteria
– chemical
Meets 'extra virgin'
quality criteria
– sensory
Show judging
taste test
score (%)
Taster comments Bottle image
Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil Classic Flavour Yes 1.73 Australia 750 13.00 Yes Yes 85 Intense fruity nose, good transfer and harmony. Citrus (lemon/lime), artichoke, green corn, green banana and herbs. Long pepper pungency. Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil Classic Flavour
Red Island Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Yes
1.29 Australia 500 6.45 Yes Yes 79 Tomatoes, spices, fresh, balanced, mown grass. Rounded. Medium complexity. Green apple, nutmeg. Red Island Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Maggie Beer Extra Virgin Olive Oil Yes
2.93 Australia 375 10.99 Yes Yes 77 Lemon tea and fresh nuts with late bitterness and pungency. Maggie Beer Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Rosto Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Mellow Yes 1.73 Australia 750 12.99 Yes Yes 76 Banana, peaches, flowers. Lacking complex aroma. Cut grass, white pepper in the mouth. Balanced, delicate. Late chilli finish. Rosto Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Mellow
Woolworths Select Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Yes 1.00 Australia 500 5.00 Yes Yes 76 Slight lemon zest-low. Full bodied. A little grass. Spices, good bitterness, low pungency. Woolworths Select Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Always Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil Yes 1.82 Spain 500 9.10 Yes Yes 75 Clean, fresh exotic fruits on nose. Green beans. More bitterness than pungency. Always Fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Macro Organic Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.00 Spain 500 5.00 Yes Yes 67 Exotic fruits on nose, little transfer, late warm pungency. Macro Organic Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Moro El Primero Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.60 Spain 500 8.00 Yes Yes 67 Light tropical fruits with robust herbaceous flavours and lingering warmth. Moro El Primero Extra Virgin Olive Oil
La Espanola Extra Virgin Olive Oil 0.90 Spain 500 4.50 Yes Yes 66 Exotic fruits on nose, herbaceous, olive leaves and a strong lingering bitterness. La Espanola Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Woolworths Select Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.00 Spain 500 5.00 Yes Yes 65 Tropical fruits with smooth lingering flavours. Woolworths Select Spanish Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Originale 1.73 Italy 750 12.99 Yes Yes 60 Lacking freshness and fruity aroma. Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Originale
Coles Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.00 Australia 500 5.00 Yes Yes 60 Light grassy aroma with delicate flavours. Coles Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Coles Extra Virgin Olive Oil 0.80 Spain 500 4.00 Yes Yes 60 Strong fruity tropical nose but flat, bland, thick in mouth. Coles Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dante Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.60 Italy 500 7.99 Yes Yes 60 Flat on nose, crushed nuts, building pungency. Dante Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Just Organic (Aldi) Extra Virgin Olive Oil 0.94 Spain 500 4.69 Yes Yes 60 Mild fruity nose. Some apple. Some fruit transfer but lacking fruit taste. No harmony. Just Organic Aldi Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.80 Italy 500 8.99 Yes Yes 55 Mild fruit aroma. Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The Olive Tree (Aldi) Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fruity 0.90 Australia 1000 8.99 Yes Yes 55 Mushroom, earthy aroma. Lacking clarity and freshness. Flat. The Olive Tree Aldi Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil Fruity
Coles Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1.00 Spain 500 5.00 Yes Yes 50 Mild nose of overripe apple. Coles Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Organic (A) 1.75 Italy 250 4.38 No (A) Yes na na Bertolli Extra Virgin Olive Oil Organic
Minerva Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil (B) 1.56 Greece 500 7.80 Yes No (B) na na Minerva Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Minos Extra Virgin Olive Oil (B) 1.40 Greece 500 6.99 Yes No (B) na na Minos Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pukara Estate Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil (A) 6.40 Australia 250 15.99 No (A) Yes na na Pukara Estate Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Squeaky Gate The All Rounder Classic & Fruity Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil (B) 1.07 Australia 750 8.00 Yes No (B) na na Squeaky Gate The All Rounder Classic and Fruity Australian Extra Virgin Olive Oil

TABLE NOTES

Price The price we paid (not on special) in stores in August 2017. Price per 100mL calculated for comparison. Larger sizes may be more economical. 

Extra virgin quality criteria For details of chemical and sensory testing see How we tested

Score A show judging taste test score of 65–74% is bronze medal standard, 75–84% is silver medal standard, and 85–100% is gold medal standard. 

(A) Not entered in show judging tasting – first sample analysed failed one of the three UV absorbance tests. 

(B) Not entered in show judging tasting – first sample analysed failed sensory test.

na Not applicable

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