How do I recognize good olive oil?

It is a little frustrating: since we dealt fully with the issue in 2003, the answer to this central question has been as difficult as ever. Which means nothing more than that consumer protection for customers in Europe (and even worse in the USA) is written as small as possible!

The term "extra virgin olive oil" says nothing. Originally, it was intended to designate the olive oil of the highest quality and protect it from abuse. In theory (i.e. eu olive oil legislation), an extra virgin olive oil must taste absolutely flawless. In reality, the sensory quality of olive oils is hardly checked (assessments are not prescribed, but voluntary). In addition, the term has been softened by recent EU regulations: "negative alkylesters" of up to 150 mg/kg of oil are allowed in extra virgin olive oil – common lynotal for top oils are values of 10 to 20 mg/kg. In fact, a supplier is therefore allowed to mix good oil with inferior oil and goes without punishment.

Still, read the label carefully. Sometimes simple olive oil is offered, "Olio di Oliva" without the addition extra native. This means that 99 percent of the oil can be made of chemically processed (refined) olive oil and only one percent of authentic "extra virgin".

The origin of the olives is also given in many supermarket oils, small print. Olives from Mediterranean countries such as Tunisia or Morocco are cheaper, the oil cheaper than Italian ones.

Fingers off dumping prices! A good and fresh olive oil from Italy cannot be offered more cheaply than for about 5 to 8 euros per half-litre bottle. The harvesting and production costs are simply correspondingly high. Tuscany is the most expensive region for olive oil, besides the Lake Garda region, as the terraced landscape requires hand harvesting. In addition, the harvest is small, Tuscany produces only two percent of the Italian olive oil.

Discounter oils for 4 euros or less the bottle (0.5 or 0.7 l) show that the contents are dubious. To keep prices low, fresh oil harvests are mixed with older vintages, or the oil does not come from Italy, but from southern Spain (where it can be produced cheaply) or North Africa (harvesting costs are much lower there). Foul-smelling oil from overripe or partially spoiled olives is dampened ("deodorized") in refining plants, resulting in a flawless but neutral, completely aromatic oil. The addition of sunflower and nut oils is also possible and has often been revealed as a scam.

An exemplary label indicates the name of the producer, the harvest vintage and the olive variety. The more anonymous a product, the less likely it is to be of good quality. An oil producer stands by his name for the content right now – like a winemaker. The olive variety indicates the taste of the oil. Some traders offer tastings of the oil – all this helps you to find good oil.

Author: Kersten Wetenkamp