Pros and cons of olive oil

Pros and cons of olive oil


The quality of an olive oil is determined by a set of parameters that characterize its defects and merits. In particular, the organoleptic analysis of an olive oil is carried out with PANEL TEST "test done by a group of people". These are qualified people, specialized in tasting an oil and evaluating and certifying its organoleptic characteristics (strengths and weaknesses) based on flavor, color, smell and appearance. It is in fact a subjective method as it exploits the sensory organs of the tasters who behave like measuring instruments.

The analyzes are carried out at the laboratories of the Chamber of Commerce or other authorized bodies or at the companies themselves if they are large producers, by a group of eight - twelve tasters (being a subjective method, a plurality of people is required to be able objective data) that become, in effect, a measuring instrument. The tasting takes place in separate booths in order not to influence each other. The tasters are provided with one tasting card, where the individual judgments report. The merits and defects of an olive oil are determined by a set of properties related to color, aroma, flavor and its consistency. In practice, it is based on the ability that our sense organs (taste, smell, touch and sight in this case) have to react to certain stimuli that can be of a chemical and physical nature. Sight is used to evaluate color, smell to judge aroma, taste to establish flavor while fluidity and viscosity are evaluated with the sense of touch. In any case: color, aroma and flavor are the three fundamental aspects on which the sensory analyzes of an oil are based and which then determine the attribution of its qualification.At the end the panel leader will make an average of the marks given by the tasters.

Tasters define what it is called flavorwhich is the joint olfactory, gustatory, visual and tactile sensation. The values ​​to be considered were defined by Regulation (EC) no. 2568/91 and subsequent amendments which establishes that an oil must be subjected to tasting in order to determine the product category to which it belongs. The data obtained with the panel test are finally compared with the value of the median of the defects and of the median of the fruitiness (note 1) standard. In practice you will have:

  • extra virgin olive oil: the median of the defects is equal to 0 and the median of the fruitiness is greater than 0;
  • virgin olive oil: the median of the defects is greater than 0 and less than or equal to 3.5 and the median of the fruitiness is greater than 0;
  • lampante olive oil: the median of the defects is greater than 3.5; or the median of the defects is less than or equal to 3.5 and the median of the fruitiness is equal to 0.

So if an olive oil has as parameters a median of the fruity> 0 and a median of the defect = 0, it can be labeled as extra virgin olive oil otherwise it will be downgraded to virgin olive oil or even lampante olive oil (for the classification more detailed of the different types of oil see the page: Types of olive oil).

In general, the defects and qualities of an olive oil are determined by:

  • variety of cultivated olive tree;
  • cultivation area;
  • climatic trend;
  • cultivation method (treatments and cultivation practices);
  • degree of ripeness of the olives at harvest;
  • method of olive harvesting;
  • time and place of conservation of the olives;
  • methods of oil extraction;
  • modalities of kneading;
  • methods of conservation of the oil;
  • cleaning of the oil mill and plants.

Now let's see what are the parameters taken into consideration for the panel test and therefore the merits and defects that an olive oil could have:


WORM: the defect is caused by the larvae of the Dacus oleae (or Bactrocera oleae) of the family Tephritidae. The damage is both quantitative and qualitative. In the first case the larvae eating the pulp determine a considerable reduction in the oil yield, in the second case the spoiled olives make the oil acidic and with a lower shelf life.

LAND: this defect occurs when olives dirty with earth or mud are processed that have not been washed properly.

MOLD: the hint of mold is typical of the oils in which fungi and yeasts have developed. This defect occurs when the olives are harvested wet or stored in containers with little ventilation or the oil mill has used moldy and dirty baskets. In practice, it has the smell that resembles a closed and damp room. It is a serious defect that can hardly be corrected.

HEATING: when the olives remain piled for too many days in poorly ventilated containers, the fermentation phenomena begin (lactic fermentation). Often this defect is associated with that of mold or wine or rancid and does not stand out well if it is not particularly strong. It is not a correctable defect because it derives from the wrong way in which the raw material has been treated.

MORCHIA: it is a typical defect of badly stored oils, which have not been filtered or decanted or which have remained in contact with the fermentation lees for a long time. Generally it is oil recovered from decanting sludge or presses. It is a taste that is very easily perceived.

WINE OR INACETITE: this defect is so called because the oil in this case is reminiscent of wine or vinegar. This is due to abnormal fermentation processes of sugars that lead to the formation of acetic acid, ethyl acetate and ethanol in higher than normal quantities. It is a very serious defect that occurs during the pressing of partially fermented olives (generally a consequence of bad storage). This defect is mainly perceived with the sense of smell.

RANCID: it is a defect that we find in all oils and fats that undergo oxidative processes due to their prolonged contact with air, light and heat. It is a defect that cannot be corrected.

VEGETATION WATER: defect that the oil takes due to bad decantation and prolonged contact with water and vegetation (waste water deriving from the processing of olive oil).

METALLIC: this defect is typical of oil kept too long in contact with the metal surfaces of the machinery used during the manufacturing process or with unsuitable metal containers. The metallic taste is noticeable only during tasting and is easily recognizable.

COOKED OR STRACOTTO: this defect occurs when the oil heats up too much, especially during kneading.

TAX: this defect occurs when the olives are pressed with dirty fiscoli or that are not washed often. It is a serious defect because it means that the oil mill does not take care to keep the fiscoli clean. This defect is felt both in taste and smell.

TIRED OUT: it is an oil that has lost its freshness and vivacity, due to the fact that it has remained too long in large containers or that the oils have been bottled late. This defect manifests itself with the tasting of the oil.


FRUITY: it is an aroma that recalls the smell and taste of a fresh fruit. These are very popular oils for their aroma to taste and smell. You can have a green fruitiness, characteristic of an oil obtained from green olives that are not yet ripe; a ripe fruitiness typical of oil obtained from ripe olives. The difference is only a more or less pronounced aroma. This value is perceived with the sense of smell.

BITTER: the bitter taste of the oil is due to the fact that the olives have been harvested while still green or just ripened. This taste can be more or less strong and more or less pleasant, according to individual tastes. The bitter taste is determined by the presence of flavonoids and other substances in excessive quantities, in addition to the fact that it could be a varietal characteristic. It can also happen that the bitterness is determined by the leaves that are left in the processing process.

SWEET: the sweet taste is a great advantage of olive oil. It is obviously not due to the presence of sugars since it is not present in the olive, but it is given by the combination of several aromas that give gentleness and delicacy to the oil you are tasting. This type of oil also defines ROUND because it has no taste peaks.

SPICY: the spicy flavor that is the slight tingling that is perceived in the throat when tasting an oil is typical of oils obtained from olives harvested early.

GRASS: some oils may remind you of freshly cut grass in taste and smell. This value is found in some cultivars.

HAY: it is an oil reminiscent of dry grass. This value is perceived with the sense of smell.

ALMOND: it is an aroma reminiscent of a fresh almond therefore with a sweet and bitter taste. It is appreciated as an aftertaste by keeping the oil in contact with the tongue and palate. It is associated with sweet oils and with an unmarked odor.

APPLE: it is an aroma reminiscent of fruit and is found above all in sweet oils.

FRESH FRUIT: this is an aroma reminiscent of almonds, hazelnuts or pine nuts.

FLORAL: it is an aroma that recalls the scents of the Mediterranean scrub in bloom.

ARTICHOKE: to the taste, the oil has a pleasant raw artichoke flavor. This aroma is found in freshly produced oils.

TOMATO: certain olive varieties can give an aroma reminiscent of tomatoes.


- How oil is extracted from olives

- How many types of olive oil do we have

1. For median of defects we mean the median of the negative attribute perceived with the highest intensity. In other words, this value is calculated through mathematical formulas using as input the data provided by various tasters (panel test "test done by a group of people"), people qualified to taste olive oils, who know how to evaluate and certify the organoleptic characteristics (strengths and weaknesses), the taste, color, smell and appearance of an oil. It is in fact a subjective method as it exploits the sensory organs of the tasters which behave like measuring instruments. median of the fruitiness we operate in the same way as the median of the defects. The data obtained are then mathematically processed obtaining the values ​​we see in the labels.

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