Learning to distinguish and appreciate monovarietal olive oils


For some time now, monovarietal olive oils have appeared on supermarket shelves -as I like to say-, that is, made from a single variety of olives, which gives them particular organoleptic characteristics, depending on the variety used.

Although curiosity has made me try them, and I have noticed their singularities in terms of aroma and flavor, I wanted to know more about the subject. Fortunately, on a recent trip to Baeza invited by the Interprofessional Organization of Spanish Olive Oil, along with other bloggers, I attended an oil tasting where I was able to learn to distinguish and appreciate monovarietal olive oils.

Guided by the expert and friendly Teresa Gómez, we learned not only the peculiarities of each oil, but also the procedure that must be followed in an oil tasting.

How to do an oil tasting

It is not that we are going to become expert oil tasters overnight, but since knowledge only occupies a few lines, we are going to see how an oil tasting is done, even in general lines.

The first thing is to put a little oil in a glass, usually blue, since the color of the oil is not relevant in these cases, since it does not depend on the variety of the olive, but on other factors such as, for example, the maturation. In our case, we use glasses for aesthetic and photographic reasons, but it is something that is not taken into account in this type of tasting, although it should be valued in the kitchen.

Afterwards, the glass is held by rubbing the base with the palm of the hand, to temper the oil and thus obtain better results. Next, we uncover the glass and proceed to smell the oil with slow and deep breaths, trying to appreciate the aromas that reach us.

After about half a minute, we take a small sip, which we slowly distribute throughout the mouth before swallowing. What is valued in an oil tasting is:

  • The aroma notes
  • The intensity
  • The sweetness
  • Bitterness
  • The Spice
  • The equilibrium
  • The aroma / taste ratio
  • The evolution of taste in the mouth

Between oil and oil, it is advisable to clean your mouth with a few pieces of apple and some water, even sparkling water.

Tasting of monovarietal olive oils

Now that we know the procedure followed in a tasting, let's see what this tasting of monovarietal olive oils has brought us, to see if we can appreciate and distinguish the oil produced by the different varieties of olives.

Olive oil made with Arbequina

It is an olive oil that has a green fruity aroma on the nose, like apple and fresh almond, although of low intensity. In the mouth it is not bitter at all, with a green almond flavor, it only has a slight spicy finish.

It is a smooth and simple oil, very little rich in nuances. In addition, it is less stable to conservation due to the lack of oleics. It is a very common variety in Catalonia.

Olive oil made with Hojiblanca

On the nose, the first thing that catches the eye is its very intense green fruity aroma, like freshly cut grass, with some nuances of dried fruit. In the mouth it is quite spicy, with a prolonged and persistent bitterness.

In particular, I find it a very aromatic and balanced oil, ideal both for the kitchen and for the table. It usually has a greenish color and is typical of the areas of Malaga and Córdoba.

Olive oil made with Picual

This is the preferred variety of the cooks we met on our visit, not in vain is it the predominant variety in Jaén. Without a doubt, it is one of those that gives an oil with more personality, although for my taste, it is excessively spicy.

On the nose it presents a less intense greenness than Hojiblanca, with reminiscences of green tomato and aromatic herbs. In the mouth it starts out very bitter, but the spiciness progressively rises until it far exceeds the bitterness, sometimes making you clear your throat. An oil that does not go unnoticed, but it can be too intense at times.

Olive oil made with Cornicabra

This is the less common variety, in fact, it was the first time I tried it, and I was pleasantly surprised. On the nose it is not very green, with sweet notes, like a banana peel. It is very smooth on the palate, with a sweet entry and a bitterness that rises very gradually.

In my modest opinion, a very balanced and nuanced oil, probably the one I liked the most of all the ones we tried. It is the predominant variety in the central area (Toledo, Ciudad Real and Madrid.

Needless to say, all the oils we tried in the tasting were extra virgin olive oils, obtained only by cold pressing. Nor should it fail to mention that, although these four are the most widely used varieties to make monovarietal olive oils, there are many more varieties of olives in our country, some focused on producing oil and others as table olives.

I hope you have found this foray into oil tasting interesting, as well as having learned to distinguish and appreciate monovarietal olive oils, a very interesting option to give our dishes a different point.

You can already imagine that a salmorejo or a salad will not taste the same if we use an oil made with Arbequina olives to another made with Picual, so it is convenient to know what flavors and nuances each one is going to bring us.

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Tags:  Recipes Desserts Selection 

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