We have just received the book Monocultivar Olive Oil Top 2021 by Gino Celletti. The contribution of this book to extra virgin olive oil tasting is very interesting. Crucial issues about tasting are tackled and Gino Celletti deals with them from a creative and innovative angle. Here are some of the points about tasting that Gino highlights.
(1) There is no such thing as coffee, strawberry, mint flavours.
The flavours are in the mouth. If you hold your nose, you will not perceive aromas like coffee, strawberry or mint, because they are perceived by the sense of smell. Therefore, they are not tastes but smells. Do not say again that something tastes like mint, but that it smells like mint.
(2) EVOO has to smell, if it does not smell it cannot be sold.
Learning to taste the oil is key to protect your family and avoid scamming. If an EVOO does not smell it is not EVOO but 'lampante' because:
A - it is refined olive oil. The perfumes were washed out with the refining and there is nothing healthy left in the oil.
B - it is not olive oil. For the regulation 640/08, if the tasting panel decrees the average fruity = 0, it is lampante oil. It is impossible for oil from olives to be fragrance-free.
(3) 'Good' oil has to be pungent, the more the better.
The antioxidants in olive oil, which are called polyphenols, are characteristically pungent. By 'good' I don't mean good on the palate, but good in terms of quality. Of course, I would like to see consumers change their concept of 'good' to spicy oil, just as in the South and the Centre, but I would also like to see consumers in the North change their concept of 'good'. The equation is simple: the more pungent the oil, the more polyphenols it contains and the more antioxidants it provides.
(4) 'Good' oil has to be pungent, otherwise it is a rip-off.
If olive oil is not pungent, it does not come from olives or it has been washed, so it is either a rip-off or of poor quality. The oil in pungent because of the polyphenols. If it is not pungent, it does not come from olives or it has been washed by stench.
(5) If the oil is bitter, thank those who gave it to you.
Bitterness is not a defect, but an added value. Olive oil can be sweet or bitter, just as wine can be white or red. If you bite into a raw olive, it tastes very bitter. This is oleuropein. Bitter oil is good; you just need to learn how to pair it at the table.
(6) The green colour of oil does not mean quality, it can mean a rip-off.
Tasters taste olive oil in blue or brown glasses so that they are not influenced by the colour. The green of the oil derives from the synthesis of chlorophyll. Photons of light convert carbon dioxide (CO2) into oxygen (O2), as well as into water (H20) and glucose in equal amounts. Chlorophyll is to plants what haemoglobin is to humans. Chlorophyll is the most common plant pigment and is used together with carotenoids for 'colouring'. To transform a truckload of seed oil into extra virgin olive oil with green colour, you only need a bottle with beta carotenes that absorb the orange frequency, here is the miracle and the scam. However, there is no spiciness, bitterness or perfume: just try it to foil the scam.
(7) The acidity of the oil is not detectable in the mouth.
There are those who claim to assess the acidity of olive oil with their mouth, well either he is a cheat, or is .... bionic. There are those who sense the acidity with their mouth. In my 45 years of experience I have seen people say: 'It's acid, 1.70'. He's a bionic man, he even gives decimals! Oleic acid has a molecular weight of 282.47 and at 20°C, it has a solubility product = 0, i.e. it is insoluble in water. The wet tongue of 9000 receptors of about u (thousandths of a millimetre) only senses ionised charges. How can the tongue detect the acidity of a water-insoluble substance with dimensions larger than the tongue receptors? An aircraft carrier does not fit in a garage. Yet there are those who put it in. Acidity is measured in the laboratory, by phenolphthalein titration or colorimetric titration. The mouth is not used to assess acidity.