To gain a better understanding, let’s begin with the raw material: the olive oil, itself. We resort to this expression because there are at least four product categories of merchandise for the retail trade. In order of ascending quality we have olive pomace oil, olive oil, virgin olive oil and at the very top of the pyramid of quality, extra virgin olive oil. When discussing extra virgin olive oil, a further distinction can be made between every daily oil which is good for cooking, or the one whose excellence you dream about and is consumed as a condiment or dressing. The oil obtained from olives remains the undisputed protagonist of Italian cuisine and has, over the last few decades, become one of the staple foods of the Mediterranean diet, one that UNESCO has universally recognised it as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Today, the olive is cultivated in every region of Italy, even in the Valle d’Aosta and Piedmont, although here there are only a few groves. The terrain and the climate play a fundamental role in the growth of the trees and their fruit. The quality and the fragrance of the oil depends not only on the care taken in cultivation, but also in the attention given to harvesting the olives and the ability in the selection, processing and conservation of the oil which is obtained. The olive must be harvested carefully choosing the most appropriate time and method, depending on the stage of maturation of the olive and, as a consequence, the type of oil one wishes to obtain. Once collected, the fruit is brought to the press at the earliest possible time, carefully to avoid crushing and ensuring they have proper aeration, otherwise the olives cannot breathe which affects the quality of the oil obtained. Our company, in addition to direct supplier control, applies all possible safeguards to ensure and offer its own customers a healthy, genuine product that complies with the most restrictive European standards. Beyond chemical analyses, of which there are several dozen different parameters we analyse for each oil sample, we perform constant taste tests for a sensory evaluation conducted by skilled experts who are professionally recognised, and who make up part of a tasting panel. The tasting method is officially regulated within the European Union by current Commission Regulation (EC) No 796/02.
This text is taken from chapter 2 of the book “An Olive Oil Family” written by Cristina and Federico Santagata, published by Olio Officina Edizioni.