Feb 172013

In an effort to keep up with olive oil production and exportation in Israel, Hebrew University is providing a new certification for their students, olive oil expert. The olive oil certification course curriculum with be aligned with the International Olive Council standards and guidelines.

One of the duties the graduates will perform is as an expert witness in Israeli and international courts. This is considered essential in light of olive oil adulteration and misrepresentation.

New Major at Hebrew U: Olive Oil Expert – Inside Israel – News – Israel National News

May the sun shine through your branches.


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.


Mar 242012

I just read two articles regarding the alleged International Olive Council’s (IOC) intention to remove sensory evaluation from qualification for extra virgin olive oils from IOC member countries. The first article is from Tom Mueller, the author of Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil entitled Vanishing Viginity? and the second from the Olive Oil Times entitled Non-Member Chemists Kept Out of Olive Council Meeting.

Let me give some unvarnished advice from someone who is familiar with and loves brutal public relations and political campaigns (same thing really). If what is alleged turns out to be true – this is a gift. Take it and spin the hell out of it!!!!!

May the sun shine through your branches.


Dec 012011

I just read the latest article from the International Olive Council (IOC) entitled “International Olive Council Seeks Greater ‘Transparency’“. The first thing I thought was, “they must be in some serious trouble.” The usage of the word ‘transparency’ is one of those million dollar public relations words suffused with powerful meanings. And the meanings aren’t exactly what you’d expect.

Throughout my thirty-year-long career as a lobbyist and politician I’ve learned a thing or two about the use of the word ‘transparency’. I’ve seen it used to bolster the sagging careers of politicians who’ve been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I’ve seen it used by company CEOs trying to save their jobs and the companies they run while a major screw-up worms it’s way into news headlines. In these instances, the word ‘transparency’ is used as a shield for hiding something, or as a means of deflecting notice from unpleasant actions or previously hidden information that is now subject to public scrutiny.

Another use of ‘transparency’ is as code for “you show me what you’ve got and I’ll take a good look” – like the transparency afforded to a peep show viewer. This instance is often found in legislation and regulations.

In any case, the term is used, but is not actually defined by the user. Why? Because the word is charged with positive connotations, and those connotations are seductive. Why define the word when the person who hears or reads it will automatically think you’ve have nothing but good intentions. Do not be tricked into substituting your own version of what transparency should be with the one presented to you, not just by the IOC, but by anyone.

Just for fun I did a search for all the uses of the word ‘transparency’ in The Olive Oil Times database and eleven articles came up, including the one above. I went to each and searched the word ‘transparency’ to determine it’s usage. In one instance it was loosely defined as traceability and in another as an olive oil production process audit. Neither definition conformed with the other. In all the other articles the word was used in such a way that the reader could then attach whatever interpretation they wished.

In order to find out just what the IOC means by ‘transparency’ and their intended actions as it relates to the meaning, here are some questions they should answer.

  • What are you attempting to make transparent, and be specific?
  • How will you affect these transparencies, and be specific?
  • Are these transparency actions mandatory or voluntary?
  • How will you police these transparency actions?
  • What are the punitive measures for violation of the transparency actions?
  • What are the benefits of adherence to the transparency actions?
  • What is your transparency actions implementation timeline?

I know I sound jaded and I am. When a secretive, quasi-governmental, international organization is interested in transparency, you can be assured it’s not in the best interests of the two most chronically-aggrieved parties in the world olive oil industry, growers and consumers. It has been proven time and again that the International Olive Council (IOC) doesn’t implement it’s own rules and regulations, and doesn’t give a fig for growers and consumers even in their own member countries.

May the sun shine through your branches.


Nov 012011

The argument of old versus new always seems to gin up emotions and opposition. Whether it’s olive varieties and growing techniques, olive oil packaging, or membership in the Old World Club (aka International Olive Council/IOC) passions are inflamed. Inflamed or not, the world is changing and so are the olive and olive oil industries. Here are a few observations about packaging and my freely proffered opinions.

If you do or don’t like what I have to say about olive oil packaging, give me an intelligent argument and not an outburst. Discussions about olive oil packaging can get heated.  There is the clear glass vs. dark glass debate; the glass vs. plastic debate; the decant vs. keep it in original container debate; and now thanks to two innovative companies, one in South Africa and one in Australia there are some new packaging debates to enliven your future. Let’s explore them.

This past June I read an article by South African journalist, food and wine critic, and sausage entrepreneur, Peter James-Smith. It was entitled Pink Sauce but toward the end of the article he mentioned a new type of olive oil bottle created for and used by the South African olive oil producers at Willow Creek. Peter and I emailed a bit and he sent me the press release about Willow Creek’s award winning olive oil squirt bottle and then I settled in for a think about the bottle’s virtues or weaknesses.

In the meantime, I received a comment from an incredulous Olive Crazy reader accusing me of the atrocity of supporting the squirt bottle, even though I had merely stated that it existed. However, now ye of little inventiveness and foresight, bring it on. I officially have decided that I like the squirt bottle. MAIS NON!

I have a tendency, just like a lot of folks, to go with the tried and true and ignore the virtues of the new, but I’ve decided to stop giving in to the intellectual laziness of succumbing to tradition in an industry that is again vibrant and new. So squirt bottle, I am venturing into newness by liking you and bowing to the end of the dribbling and puddling in my kitchen each time I drizzle or pour my favorite extra virgin olive oil. I also like that your bottle is dark and even though it is plastic, it doesn’t have the nasties that some plastic bottles contain. Thumbs up.

Now for the second, new, olive oil packaging, there is the Barossa Olive Oil Company’s Ollo Extra Virgin Olive Oil in an airtight, collapsible-bladder, food-service packaging. For the folks in a commercial kitchen instead of big tin cans that are difficult to completely empty, this seems like an improvement.

I also read about the Ollo packaging, in retail form, on Australian scientist, Richard Gawel’s blog, Slick Extra Virgin. I haven’t seen it available in stores in the Atlanta area, but that doesn’t mean isn’t available somewhere on the continent. You must read his comments on the packaging. I couldn’t have said it better.

Whether it’s packaging or anything else about the olive and olive oil industries these days, you can be sure controversy isn’t far behind and I look forward to fanning the flames.

May the sun shine through your branches.