Olive oil

Olive oil: What does “Virgin Olive Oil” mean?

Virgin Olive Oil

Virgin olive oil represents the highest quality olive oil, extracted only by mechanical means without the use of solvents. It is characterized by a rich flavor, low acidity below 0.8%, and high nutritional value, including monounsaturated fats and antioxidants.

The production process includes careful picking at ideal ripening, precise sorting of olives, controlled milling and cold pressing to preserve its properties. Storage in dark glass bottles protects it from light and oxidation.

Rich in heritage and tradition, this olive oil offers a result with a balanced taste between fruitiness, bitterness and bitterness. Discover more about its rich tradition and precise style.


Definition of virgin olive oil

Virgin olive oil is defined as olive oil of high quality and rich flavor. It stands out for its rich taste experience and nutritional integrity, making it a key pillar in healthy cuisines. The health benefits are multiple, including its high monounsaturated fat content, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also rich in vitamins E and K.


Importance of Harvest Time

The quality and taste of extra virgin olive oil is profoundly influenced by the time of harvest.Early harvested olives, usually picked while still green, yield oil with a strong, peppery taste and a higher content of polyphenols, which are beneficial to health.
In contrast, olives harvested later, when fully ripe, produce milder, fruity oils with softer flavors. Farmers and producers who aim to offer the highest quality extra virgin olive oil should carefully monitor the ripening process. Factors such as climate, olive variety and local growing conditions determine the ideal harvest window.


Olive sorting process

The sorting of olives is an important step in the production of extra virgin olive oil, ensuring that only the highest quality olives are selected for processing
First, the olives are transported to the mill, where they are subjected to rigorous inspection. The first stage of sorting involves the removal of leaves, branches and other debris. The olives are then washed to remove any impurities.
They are then sorted according to size, ripeness and overall quality.


Creation of olive paste

After sorting, the next crucial phase in the production of extra virgin olive oil is the creation of olive paste. The olives, including their pits, are crushed by mechanical means such as millstones or modern hammer mills.

The quality of the olive paste is of paramount importance. It must be smooth and firm in order to ensure maximum oil yield without compromising the integrity of the flavor and nutritional properties of the oil. Typically, it is kept below 80.6°F (27°C) to qualify as cold-pressed, a hallmark of extra virgin olive oil quality.


Olive oil extraction standards

Ensuring that olive oil extraction standards are met is vital to maintaining the quality and authenticity of extra virgin olive oil.

During extraction, it is important to avoid high temperatures, which can degrade the beneficial compounds in the oil and alter its flavor profile. Cold extraction, usually below 27 degrees Celsius, is a preferred method that preserves the oil’s natural antioxidants and polyphenols.
In addition, mechanical extraction techniques are used to ensure that there are no solvents or chemicals that contaminate the final product. The olive paste is slowly stirred to encourage the coalescence of the oil droplets, followed by centrifugation to separate the oil from water and solids.


Bottling and packaging

In the final phase of extra virgin olive oil production, meticulous attention to bottling and packaging is essential to preserve the quality of the oil and extend its shelf life.
Dark glass bottles are usually preferred for packaging because of their ability to protect the oil from harmful light, which can cause oxidation and deterioration of the flavor and nutritional value.

Inert gas, such as nitrogen, is often used to displace oxygen in the bottle before sealing, further protecting the oil from oxidation. In addition, clear labelling with production and expiry dates, as well as storage instructions, is vital to inform consumers about how to maintain the top quality of the oil.


Acidity requirements

The maintenance of the top quality of extra virgin olive oil depends significantly on its acidity requirements. The term “acidity” in olive oil refers to the free fatty acid content, specifically oleic acid, which serves as a critical indicator of the freshness and purity of the oil. For an olive oil to be classified as extra virgin, its acidity must not exceed 0.8%.

Olives harvested at optimum ripeness and processed immediately are less likely to produce high levels of acidity. Conversely, delayed processing or poor storage conditions can lead to increased acidity, adversely affecting the quality of the olive oil.

Furthermore, maintaining low acidity is vital not only for grading purposes but also to ensure the nutritional value and health benefits of the oil. High acidity may indicate the presence of oxidation or fermentation, which reduces the beneficial compounds in the oil.


Flavor and aroma factors

The flavor and aroma of extra virgin olive oil are influenced by several key factors, such as the variety of olive, terroir and harvest time. Each olive variety imparts unique flavor profiles, from fruity and sweet to spicy and bitter.

The terroir, i.e. the unique combination of soil, climate and altitude, shapes the organoleptic characteristics of the oil. Harvest time is crucial, as olives harvested at the ideal ripeness produce oils with balanced flavors. The milling process and the direct processing of freshly picked olives preserve the natural flavors and aromas.

Extraction methods, such as cold pressing, are also crucial for preserving the organoleptic properties. By understanding these factors, we can better appreciate the nuances of flavors and aromas that characterize high-quality extra virgin olive oil, enhancing the culinary experience.


Storage conditions

Appropriate storage conditions are essential to maintain the quality and longevity of extra virgin olive oil. The main enemies of extra virgin olive oil are oxygen, light and heat. Exposure to these elements can accelerate oxidation, leading to rancidity and loss of nutritional properties.

To ensure optimal storage, extra virgin olive oil should be kept in a cool, dark place. Ideally, storage temperatures should be between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius. It is recommended that the olive oil be stored in a cupboard away from direct sunlight and heat sources such as stoves or ovens. The choice of container is equally critical. Dark glass bottles or stainless steel containers are preferred, as they offer superior light protection compared to clear glass or plastic.

In addition, it is vital to keep the container tightly closed when not in use to minimise exposure to air. Regular inspection of the oil for any signs of spoilage, such as an unpleasant odour or taste, can help ensure that only the highest quality product is served.

Extra virgin olive oil represents the pinnacle of olive oil quality, achieved through meticulous production processes, including early harvesting, precise sorting of olives and careful paste making. Strict standards for oil extraction, low acidity levels and optimal storage conditions maintain the superior taste, aroma and nutritional benefits of the oil.