Sensory analysis is fundamental to establish the quality of olive oil. It is through tasting the aromas and flavours that the positive and negative attributes of the olive oils are identified.
The colour is not taken into consideration, as it only indicates the ripeness of the olives.
What influences the characteristics of the oils are: variety, degree of ripeness, region, sanitary condition of the fruit, extraction process, among others.
In an extra virgin olive oil we only want positive attributes. To find them, the sensations during the tastings are noted on a profile sheet, on which a distinction is made between the positive attributes and the negative attributes (defects). For each attribute there is a scale where the intensity is indicated in increasing order of perception.
The positive attributes that appear when tasting an olive oil are
- Fruity: characteristic of oils from green or ripe fruit, depending on the degree of ripeness of the olives;
- Bitter: characteristic of oil from green olives or olives turning colour;
- Pungent: represents the stinging sensation in the throat, characteristic of oil made from olives which are still unripe.
“Sweet oil” is that in which the bitter and spicy sensations are very slight.
The negative attributes which can appear in olive oil, among others, are:
- Tartness: characteristic of oils from piled olives that have fermented;
- Mould: fruits stored in humid conditions;
- Rancid: oils that have undergone an intense oxidation process.
We need a keen sense of smell and taste to establish such characteristics in the laboratory. And what about at home? Can you differentiate the aromas and flavours of olive oils?
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