During one of our monthly olive oil tastings, Corto’s crew at the mill has followed the first steps toward successfully tasting olive oil: they have warmed, swirled and sniffed. Now they are ready to sip and make some noise! This is called “strippagio” and it’s an important step in olive oil appreciation.
Take a sip. One-half teaspoon is a good amount to cover the surfaces in your mouth. Hold the olive oil there for a moment, while it spreads and warms some more.
Now slurp in some air. Don’t be shy! Make some noise! Everyone has their own distinctive method of strippagio.
Close your mouth and breathe out through your nose. As the air moves through the olive oil in your mouth, it picks up aromas and brings them up behind the back of your mouth, into your nasal passages. As anyone who has experienced a cold knows (or has taken David’s jelly bean test), smell is very important if you want to experience flavor.
Last step: swallow the oil. Depending on the variety, olive oil can have a wonderful peppery finish. Pungency is experienced at the back of the throat and it’s common to cough when tasting a good pungent oil.
While sniffing, slurping and coughing, remember to pay attention to flavors and aromas that define extra virgin olive oil.
Whether it’s a formal panel, or you’re tasting olive oil with patrons at your restaurant, there are a few steps to begin successfully exploring an olive oil’s characteristics.
As we have already learned from our master miller David, our sense of smell plays a huge part in tasting olive oil. Warming olive oil to around 82°F releases volatiles so we can appreciate their aroma and flavor. Volatile compounds are what gives superior olive oil its wonderful and unique flavors. That’s why adding a quick drizzle to hot foods just before serving enhances their aroma, thereby increasing your guest’s enjoyment of the meal.
At a formal tasting, warming plates are essential as well as blue tasting glasses with lids. Blue colored glasses hide the color of the oil, and the tulip shape, combined with a lid, is designed to collect volatiles in the head space of the glass.
For the rest of us, in a casual setting, cupping a small glass of oil in your hands will accomplish the same thing.
That’s the first step: gently warming the oil.
The second: while you are cradling the oil, gently swirl to help release the aromas.
The third step: stick your nose in the glass and take a big whiff — note the aroma or the “nose” of the olive oil in your glass.
There are so many types of aromas released from olive oil, depending on the variety of olive and when and how the olives were harvested and stored. If you have real honest-to-goodness fresh extra virgin olive oil, you may smell grass, fresh olive, and green apple, to name a very few possibilities. On the UC Davis Olive Oil Taste Panel, there are 36 aroma and flavor descriptors listed! If you encounter a defect aroma (hay, paint, and wet wood are a few examples) then you know that the oil you are tasting is NOT extra virgin, even if it says so on the bottle.
Look how much we’ve learned about the oil we are tasting, without actually “tasting” it! To be continued…
Master Miller David likes his crew to keep up their education in all things olive oil, and one way he does this is by regularly setting up formal tastings upstairs at the mill. He finds oil from all over, and makes sure he has a variety of qualities. Sometimes we taste oil shipped from Europe that is designated extra virgin, but is, in fact, not. We will get into that ugly business another time!
In the world of tasting olive oil, there are two types of formal tastings. Standards are the formal tastings certified panels use to determine if an oil is extra virgin before giving it EVOO designation. Competition panels are for competitions and bestowing awards.
Standards tastings are concerned with two things: defects and positive attributes. For example, on the profile sheet used by certified tasters at the the International Olive Oil Council (IOOC), there are only two categories: Defects and Positive Attributes. The list of possible defects are Fusty; Musty – Humid; Winey – Vinegary – Acid – Sour; Muddy Sediment; Metallic; Rancid; and Other. Under Positive Attributes are Fruity, Bitter, and Pungent. (A chemical analysis is also run on the same oil.)
A Competition profile sheet is a much more exciting read. Here there is room for subjectivity! In competitive tastings, judges are trying to decide (and explain) why they personally prefer the particular flavor and aroma of one olive oil over another. As a result, they often utilize more “flowery” language to try to express the sometime subtle flavor/aroma differences they perceive between competing oils. On the UC Cooperative Extension “15 Point Olive Oil Profile Sheet,” besides the defects and positive attributes, there are a myriad of profile points such as Texture and Complexity. Consider eight types of Ripe Fruit and thirteen types of Green Fruit to note in an oil, as well as considering if that fruit flavor is Slight, Medium, or Strong.
Competition tasting has the romance of wine tasting. What kind of fruit notes would you find in olive oil, besides olive? Think about banana, tropical, or butter for Ripe Fruit. Green apple, artichoke and tomato leaf fall under Green Fruit. As David pointed out at our last blind tasting, if someone is talking about tasting Monarch wing dust and wondering if the butterfly had flown over a field of clover or sunflowers, you know you are on a Competitive panel! Grazie!
Planting smaller olive trees in tight rows promotes uniform fruit ripening across the entire grove. Dino Cortopassi realized that this method allows us to harvest our olives at uniform maturity, allowing us to make high quality olive oil which is both highly flavorful and extremely consistent!
Just like his great-grandfather, Serafino Cortopassi, Dino has vigilantly stayed aware of new farming practices that can improve the quality and harvest of his crops. Serafino brought the Cortopassi family out of serfdom and poverty in 19th century Italy by being one of the first to see the benefit of using a newly invented mechanical wheat threshing machine. Over a century later, Dino was quick to see vineyard style planting as another farming practice that would allow him to produce fresh extra virgin olive oil at a consistency and quantity that quality oriented independent Italian restaurants and pizzerias require.
We’ve made some changes to our website and, if you are on Facebook, you’ll notice that Corto Olive’s Facebook page is active again!
In this case, we hope you agree that Change is Good because we are giving you new ways to enjoy our olive oil, virtually and in real life.
In real life, you can now go to the Gift Shop on Corto Olive’s website and purchase our Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Corto products are exclusively available through select food service distributors across the U.S. For help in locating them in your area, please call us at 888-832-0051.
After getting requests from restaurant patrons wondering how they could get some of the same Corto EVOO they just enjoyed in their favorite restaurant, for cooking at home or giving as gifts, we figured it would be a good idea to offer the 3L size for purchase on our website.
In the virtual world, Corto Oil is re-embracing Facebook and social media so we can interact with our patrons who enjoy communicating through posts, tweets and pins. We hope to share what’s going on in the grove and in the mill. We want to tell our family’s story for those who find that interesting. We want to talk about high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil from California — there is so much to share! And we want to hear from you, our restaurateur customers, who are passionate about the type of living that involves great food made with great ingredients, including Corto Oil!
If you haven’t already, please Like us on Facebook. And if you would like to receive monthly emails with updates please join our email list here. Grazie!