Sensorial analysis allows the taster to highlight the organoleptic characteristics of the extra virgin olive oils.
The test consists of three phases:
- Visual evaluation: the taster examines the olive oil visually to evaluate its colour and the shades it assumes with the light.
- Olfactory evaluation: the taster smells the olive oil to evaluate the smell.
- Evaluation of taste: the taster tastes the extra virgin olive oil to assess its positive attributes, fruitiness, bitterness and spiciness, and any other sensations that the oil develops inside the tester’s palate.
Olive oil tasting technique
- Pour the oil in a small dark glass, keeping it covered with a napkin, and warm the glass in the palm of your hand. Shake gently so the oil releases all flavours.
- Inhale, first shortly then deeply, trying to capture all the flavours and pleasant or unpleasant sensations.
- Taste a small quantity of oil; try to keep it at the front of your mouth, between the lower lip and your teeth.
- Breathe in some air through your closed teeth, first slowly and then strongly, so as to vaporise the oil in the mouth, bringing it into direct contact with the taste buds.
- Rest your mouth by slowly moving your tongue against the palate, trying to identify and catalogue all the aromas and flavours. Exhale through your nose to allow the molecules to reach the nasal membrane, thus giving you even more precise sensations.
- Once you have obtained enough information you can spit out the oil.
- Now carefully evaluate the olfactory sensations and take note of the fruity sensations and all the other positive and negative attributes, giving them the correct degree of intensity.
In general, the positive attributes of extra virgin olive oil are bitterness, fruitiness (green or ripe) and spiciness. Other sensations that develop inside the mouth are: sourness, sweetness, herbaceous sensation, the smell of fresh or dried almond, the smell of artichoke, the smell of tomato.
FRUITINESS: this is the range of characteristic smells of the oil obtained from healthy and fresh fruits, green or ripe, perceived directly and/or olfactively, and that depend on the variety of olives.
BITTER: this is the fundamental and characteristic taste of the oil obtained from green olives, as perceived from some taste buds on the tongue.
SPICY: this is the tactile tingling sensation, characteristic of the oils produced at the beginning of the harvest, mainly olives that are still green olives, and that can be perceived throughout the mouth, in particular in the throat.
The positive attributes (fruitiness, bitterness and spiciness) depend on the intensity of perception and may be classified as:
- INTENSE, when the median of the attribute is greater than 6;
- MEDIUM, when the median of the attribute is between 3 and 6;
- LIGHT, when the median of the attribute is less than 3.
- BALANCED: this is oil that has no imbalances. Extra virgin olive oil is said to be imbalances when, considering its smell, tactile and taste sensations, the median of the bitter and/or spicy attributes exceed the fruity median by two points.
- SWEET OIL: when the medians of bitter and spicy attributes of the oil is equal to 2 or less.
The presence in the oils of the different positive attributes with different intensities depends mainly on the type of cultivar, by the degree of ripeness of the olives and by the geographical area of cultivation. In some freshly extracted oils bitterness tends to prevail; this is typical of the oils obtained from olives that are not completely ripe and have an abundance of “polyphenols”: a high concentration of these substances also cause a pungent feeling. On the contrary, a low concentration of polyphenols is characteristic of sweet oils.