Feb 262012

My engineer/chemist husband periodically goes for training to up his game and believes I should do the same. After all, the world of olives and olive oil is not just fun, it’s very technical. Since last year Mr. Olive Crazy has been trying to get me to go to an olive oil tasting class, and I have managed to come up with an excuse each time.

First there was the Olive Oil Sensory Class in Paso Robles, California last fall. I made up some lame excuse about it being out of the way, but then got really sick so I got out of that one.

Then there was the Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori Olio di Oliva’s (ONAOO) Olive Oil Tasting Course in English which was held last November in Imperia, Italy. I had the week off from everything, including the kids, and Mr. Olive Crazy insisted I attend. I muttered something about laundry and being tired. There was no laundry and I wasn’t tired, but he bought it.

Now there’s the Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil Course on March 30th and 31st at the University of California, Davis campus. The only conceivable excuse I have is that the Georgia Legislature might be in Session on March 30th, but that’s not likely. I guess I must ‘fess up and reveal “My Dark Secret”.

I am terrified. I know that sounds crazy but bear with me here. Look closely at the description for the lecture and tasting that will take place at 10:45 am on March 30th. I even highlighted the thing that scares me.

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

I have a finely-honed gag reflex, and I know what will happen if I taste a nasty olive oil. Yup – that.

Thanks to those pregnancies two decades ago, I can now barf on command, and the command comes from my brain. Describe something nasty to me – barf! Point out the squashed animal in the road – barf! Make me taste and swallow something fusty, moldy, grubby, greasy, rancid, muddy, or metallic – barf!

I am a little sad that I can’t play with all the other folks who taste and judge numerous olive oils for fun and profit, but I most certainly will continue to carefully check the flavors of each extra virgin olive oil that I buy. I just won’t share with you my physical reaction to a bad olive oil other than I pitched it in the trash.

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, ndsturzenberger@ucdavis.edu
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.


Jul 022011

I haven’t reposted any other writer’s work before. I usually write my thoughts and then link the article for you to read, but I like lots of points in this article and want to post it just the way it is.

Here is “Smell, sip, swirl, savour” by Jayanthi Madhukar for the Bangalore Mirror.

“First things first. Olive oil is not oil. ‘Technically, olive oil is extracted by crushing olives which are fruits, so olive oil is actually a fruit juice,’ says Michele Labarile, biologist and researcher who has been working on olive oil quality control since 1982. He is also one of the first Italian teachers of Extra Virgin Olive Oil tasting courses. Michele shares his tips on olive oil tasting.

But before that, what exactly is extra virgin oil? It happens to be the highest quality olive oil characterised by perfect flavour and odour. Extra virgin olive oil means that the oil has been produced by physically crushing the fruit with no chemical treatment to neutralise the strong tastes that can be categorised as defects (since these defects are not present). In many olive oil producing regions, extra virgin oil’s quality is judged by a panel of experts for taste, mouth feel and aroma.

A little like wine tasting (after all, both wine and olive oil are obtained by crushing the fruit), olive oil tasting can be a serious affair indeed. And just as the quality of wine depends on the minutest aspect of the grapes, so does olive oil. Now get geared for the taste of olive oil – and don’t cheat, a little sip of olive oil will not hurt!

According to Michele, a typical professional tasting session is done with a coloured (blue) glass tumbler that resembles a votive holder. ‘This way, one will not judge the oil by its colour alone,’ says Michele.

The actual procedure involves the following steps: Pour a little olive oil (about 1 tablespoon) in a wine glass or a blue tasting glass. Cup the glass in one hand and cover it with the other. Swirl the oil and warm it for a few seconds. Now uncover the glass and take a good whiff of the oil. By ‘nosing’ the oil, you will be able to detect aromas like the smell of freshly cut grass, cinnamon or a fruity smell which includes vegetable ‘notes’ like artichokes and herbs as well.

Next, take a small sip of the oil and suck it in. This will help vapourise the oil and coat the tongue (which has different taste buds in different areas) and mouth. Suck air through the oil to coax in more aromas. According to Michele, good quality extra virgin olive oil will not leave a greasy feel in the mouth or a greasy aftertaste. ‘The oil will be very non-greasy,’ he informs.

Now in terms of attributes, extra virgin oil has three positive attributes. One is the fruity attribute. The second attribute is the pungency that can be detected in the throat when one swallows the oil. Pungency can range from mild to intense. The third attribute is the bitterness – it is a prominent taste in fresh olives.

For a second session of tasting, spit out any oil remaining in the mouth and drink some water or bite into a piece of green apple to avoid mixing different flavours of olive oil.

An inveterate olive oil taster will be able to detect some desirable traits in olive oil like almond (nutty), artichoke, buttery, fruity, peppery, pungent, spice, sweet and tropical. Undesirable traits include metallic, rancid, musty, brine, greasy, burnt and even bland with no positive traits. It takes some amount of experience to decipher the taste of olive oil.

Tips for Buyers

For the layman or a consumer who wants to buy a bottle of olive oil off a supermarket’s shelf, here are some tips:

– Quality extra virgin oil comes in a dark bottle as light can affect the quality of oil.
– Check the date of production. It’s advisable to buy a product that is not more than a year old.
– Cross check how the bottles are stored. There should be no exposure to direct sunlight and high temperatures.

Myths About Olive Oil

Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist, debunks a few myths about olive oil.

Myth 1: Olive oil cannot be used for cooking as high temperatures will destroy the goodness of the oil. Wrong. In fact, olive oil has a high smoking point and is a highly stable oil with a smoking point of 210C.
Myth 2: Olive oil can’t be used for Indian cooking. Extra virgin olive oil can be used for any type of cooking including Indian cooking. The thicker (and greener) the oil, the better it is. Deep frying can also be done in the oil but if required, a less expensive olive oil can be used for frying purpose.
Myth 3: Olive oil is very expensive. Right. But consider the fact that when one uses thick olive oil, the consumption is highly reduced – at least by one third. And when you see the health benefits of the oil, it outweighs the cost factor.

Health Benefits

– It has anti carcinogenic properties and is good for the heart. Extra virgin olive oil is high in polyphenols (a powerful antioxidant) and monounsaturated fat which contributes to lowering bad cholesterol. A diet rich in olive oil is said to reduce incidence of colon, breast and skin cancers.
– It has antithrombotic properties which means that the oil reduces the risks of blood clots. It also reduces the risks of clogged arteries.
– Olive oil consumption improves bone health.
– It has anti-ageing properties as well.
– Its method of extraction ensures that the goodness of olive oil is retained in the composition.”

May the sun shine through your branches.

www.olive crazy.com