I’ve recently participated in an olive oil advanced course day in Brighton with Judy Ridgway. She´s a reference in the UK olive oil sector since a long time ago, she was trained by EU to learn about olive oil and help promote the culture of good quality olive oil and write about it as a neutral person who doesn’t promote one specific country versus another.
She was originally a wine writer but after her training in olive oil she´s now a certified expert , a judge in international competitions and an olive oil book writer. One of her most famous books is cowritten with Dr Simon Poole : The olive oil diet. They are about to launch a Spanish edition of the book very soon.
I recommend reading it, it’s very thorough from how olive oil is produced to nutritional values of the extra virgin olive oil. It goes from how olive oil helps reduce the risks of many illnesses such as cancer or diabetys type 2 , arthritis, heart attacks and the production process ( harvest, crashing, malaxing, decanting) and origins and description of most common varieties independently of the country they’ve been produced and it includes very tasty recipes using extra virgin olive oil.
Back to the tasting, it was an advanced course, we tasted 13 oils from Spain, Italy, Greece, France and South Africa
We can say we drank a few olive oils that day .She included some faulty oils to learn to appreciate the difference in quality between them.
Judy reminded us the 3 basic features of an olive oil: bitterness, fruitiness and peperiness. Each variety of olive will have different intensities , the key to a winner is harmony between the attributes: not excessively peppery or mild, a good balance between the aromas and the astringency for example. We need to ask ourselves if we can identify if olives were picked green or ripe. Even the time of the tasting has an influence in your perception of the flavours. She mentioned when she tastes for producers she does it at three different times of the day and in three different order to appreciate the whole attributes of each oil. She said oil starts deteriorating quickly after it is harvested, the enemies of olive oil are light, heat and air which is exactly the opposite when they are on the olive tree. Before harvesting the olive tree needs plenty of hours of sunshine which brings heat and air (many trees are planted at 7 metres distance from each other to help air go by).
We tasted some faulty oils which were described as vinegary, musty, frosty, metallic.
We tasted several award winning oils and supermarket oil brands, single varieties and blend of varieties
She mentioned as a reference Mario Solinas as a very important olive oil competition and Flos Olei as a guide to find good quality extra virgin olive oil
In Spain we have a reference book called Evooleum which is published by Mercacei as a reference guide. You can find Montsagre picual variety there as a top 100 olive oil which you can buy from us.
In November we will run an olive oil tasting via Spanish Olive Oil School at Clapham Common with awarded oils by the Ministry of Agriculture from Spain
If you want to join us please contact me.