Nov 132012

The International Olive Council awarded a perfect score to the olive oil taste testers (sensory panel) at the Australian Oils Research Laboratory in Wagga Wagga, Australia.

This is quite a big deal. People who ‘taste’ olive oil for a living must be able to make very subtle distinctions among the flavors and sensations present in olive oil, and this is very difficult to do.

This past July I attended the introduction to olive oil tasting and the master-level sensory evaluation courses at the University of California at Davis. The auditorium full of students, including me, spent days listening to lectures, taking notes, and tasting many olive oils. The lectures were in Italian and were translated by Darrell Corti of Corti Brothers Fine Wine and Gourmet Foods Italian Grocery Store in Sacramento, California.

Until I took these courses, I had no idea how tough it is to correctly evaluate olive oils. The main things that a sensory panel are looking for are defects in the oils. The defects are a very specific list. Here are some of the more common defects and a link to the list from the Olive Oil Times: Fusty, Musty, Muddy Sediment, Winey-Vinegary, Metallic, and Rancid. There are other defects which are less common but problematic none-the-less.

So why is it that defects are what a sensory panel is really looking for? As our Italian teachers told us, if there is a defect then there is no point in continuing a sensory evaluation. The oil can never be designated as a virgin olive oil and must be sent for refining to be used as a lower grade oil know as lampante (lamp oil) or tossed out.

While you are looking at the link above provided by the Olive Oil Times, take note of the positive attributes. Maybe you have noticed some of these when you taste your extra virgin olive oil. If you haven’t, give it a try, and don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t distinguish the flavors because it is very difficult to do. People who taste-test olive oil professionally take continuous courses to stay on track. I was only moderately good at this and will never sit on a sensory panel. One thing I can do, is tell that there is a defect present, I’m just not good at identifying the defect.

Many congratulations to the Wagga Wagga sensory panel on a perfect score. You have Olive Crazy’s deep admiration.

Wagga sensory panel obtains perfect score in olive oil test | Southern Cross

May the sun shine through your branches.

Feb 242012

Ever since I wrote about the Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori Olio di Oliva’s (ONAOO) Olive Oil Tasting Course in English in Imperia, Italy I’ve had lots of folks ask if there were any olive oil tasting classes in the United States. So here you go dear readers. Please share with your oleophilic friends.

If you want to attend, make sure you register soon. The price goes up on March 1st.

Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil
University of California, Davis
March 30 & 31, 2012

This two-day course is designed for olive oil producers and processors, food retailers and marketers, food service professionals, chefs, and consumers. The course will include discussions and tastings that will focus on:

  • The basics of olive oil sensory evaluation
  • Mechanics of how to taste olive oil
  • How to identify sensory defects in olive oil
  • The role of maturity and variety in oil flavor and style
  • Sensory evaluation as a science
  • An overview of processing alternatives their effects on oil style, and positive oil characteristics
  • Tasting of single variety oils
  • How to evaluate olive oil quality
  • Consumer olive oil preferences
  • Blind tastings of oils from around the world

Who: Paul Vossen, Cooperative Extensive Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
Where: Silverado Vineyards Sensory Theater, Robert Mondavi Institute Sensory Building, UC Davis
When: Friday, March 30th and Saturday, March 31st, 2012
Prerequisite: No prerequisite necessary
Price: $495 full two-day program, fees increase to $545 on March 1st
Registration: Available through UC Davis Campus Events
Contact: Nicole Sturzenberger,
Hotels: The Olive Center has secured special rates for attendees at the Hallmark Inn in Davis,  $109/night for one King, $119/night for two Queens. Our group code is UCD Olive. Please call the hotel for details, (530) 753-3600.

Here is a copy of the tentative agenda.

Agenda (Tentative)

Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil

Friday March 30, 2012 – Olive Oil Sensory Basics
8:30 am Coffee and pastries – registration and parking (unless you paid for parking you will get a ticket)
9:00 am Welcome and IntroductionDan Flynn, Director of the UC Davis Olive Center, Davis, CA
9:05 am Lecture: Mechanics and Vocabulary of Olive Oil Tasting; Sensory Science as it Pertains to Olive Oil; Recognizing Scents in Olive Oil; Blue Glass; Profile Sheets; Taste Panel; IOC Recognition; Positive Attributes in Olive Oil as Influenced by Variety and Maturity.Tasting: Olive Oil Attributes (5 oils to taste).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
10:15 am Break
10:45 am Lecture: What is Olive Oil; How Olive Oil is Made; Effects of Processing on Oil Flavor; Classic Olive Oil Defects and Positive Attributes.Tasting: What Makes an Oil Extra Virgin (6 oils to taste).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
12:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm Lecture: An Evaluation of the Sensory Properties of Australian Olive Oils.Richard Gawel, Founder of the Australian Taste Panel and Olive Oil Judge
1:30 pm Lecture: World View of Olive Production and Consumption; History of Olive Oil Production in Europe; Influences on California and the New World.Tasting: Traditional Styles (6 oils to taste).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
2:45 pm Break
3:15 pm Lecture: Olive Oil Standards and Quality; UC Study on Oils in the California Market.Dan Flynn, Director of the UC Olive CenterTasting: California and Its Competition; UC Research in Improving Quality (6 oils to taste).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties Questions: Session on Improving California’s Olive Oils.
4:30 pm Adjourn No-host reception at Seasons (1st and F Streets, Davis)
Saturday March 31, 2012 – Exploring Oil Styles
8:30 am Pastries, Coffee, and Juice
9:00 am Lecture: Single Varietal Olive Oils; Distinct Styles of Oil by Variety.Tasting: Single-Varietal Oils (taste 6 oils).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
9:45 am Lecture: Olive Oil and Food.Fran Gage, Chef, Author, Olive Oil Judge, and UC Taste Panel member
10:15 am Break
10:45 am Lecture: Health Benefits of Olive Oil; The Science and the Hype.Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
11:15 am Lecture: The Effects of Modern Cultural Practices on Olive Oil Quality. Irrigated or Non-Irrigated, Organic or Conventional, and High Density or Medium Density.Tasting: Oils direct from producers (taste 4 oils).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
12:15 pm Lunch
1:15 pm Lecture: Flavored Olive Oils.Tasting: (5 flavored oils).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
2:00 pm Lecture: The Best of the Best; In-Depth Analysis of Well-Made Olive Oils.Tasting: Award Winning Oils from Around the World (3 oils).Darrell Corti, Corti Brothers, Sacramento (invited)
2:45 pm Break
3:15 pm Lecture: You Be the Judge – What Makes an Award Winning Oil? Taste Along with a Panel of Judges as if in a Competition Awarding Medals. (taste 6 oils).Judges: Paul Vossen, Fran Gage, and Darrell Corti (invited)
4:15 pm Adjourn


Now, go register!

May the sun shine through your branches.