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    While the organoleptic properties of olive oil depend on the olive variety, the original terroir, and the time and method of fruit harvesting, they are also the expression of the oil quality. The following elements should be considered when tasting olive oils.

    Firstly, a crystal container, half cup and half glass with a lid, is required. The crystal should be dark colored, preferably blue or ambar, to prevent the taster to be influenced by the color. When tasting different oils, mineral water, green apples and bread are indispensable. To remove the taste of the last sample, it is advisable to have a piece of apple and a sip of water before tasting the next sample.
    To make a social oil tasting, the bread should taste neutral, have a lot of crumb and little fat, and be impregnated in the oil. To make a successful tasting, 20 millimeters of oil should be poured in the cup, and the tasting be performed in three different stages of analysis: olfactory, gustatory and visual.

    Taste: sweet + salty + acid + bitter
    Flavor: tastes + aromas + tactile sensations
    Flavor and taste

    When tasting oils, or a good wine, it must be noted that there is an important difference between taste” and “flavor”. The sense of taste is located in different parts of the tongue. Only four basic tastes have been recognized to date. Food can be sweet, salty, sour or bitter, although in the past decade a fifth taste has been identified: umami, which although being typical of Eastern food, the Mediterranean palate has not yet become quite familiar with it.

    On the contrary, flavor is more complex, and evokes the impact of food on all the senses. So, in addition to the four basic tastes (sweet, salty, acid and bitter), flavor includes smell (through aftertaste) and texture sensations, that are as important as tastes themselves.
    Smell analysis

    The first step is to keep the oil at the optimum temperature for tasting, i.e. about 28°C. The most common method to accomplish this is to hold the cup with both hands, and rotate it to allow the content to warm up until it reaches the optimum temperature to enable compounds to volatilize and release a greater amount of aromatic components.

    Then, covering the cup with the hand to retain the aromas, the taster must swirl it to wet the inner surface of the cup as extensively as possible. Finally, the cup should be uncovered and the sample smelled by taking slow and intense inspirations during a short period. This procedure should be repeated after a pause to confirm the sensation. The aromas perceived, whether pleasant -resulting from the oil’s positive features-, or unpleasant –indicating the oil’s faults-, enable an immediate evaluation of the oil tasted.
    Taste analysis

    To carry out the second analysis, a sip of oil should be drunk slowly and gently. It is very important to warm up the oil a few seconds in the mouth before swallowing it to enable the evaporation of the volatile components, and the taster must breathe some air through the mouth to oxygenate the oil. Also, it is important to toss the liquid across the whole cavity of the mouth to fully coat the tongue, and put it in contact with the taste buds that can perceive the four basic tastes (sweet, salty, acid and bitter).

    In addition, the order in which the taste stimuli are perceived as the oil moves through the tongue should also be noted, including the touch aspects such as smoothness, consistency and oiliness, and the taste aspects that are translated into sensations.
    Sight analysis

    Finally, the sight analysis should be performed, which though strange as it may seem, it is unimportant to determine the quality of the olive oil. After a careful evaluation of the taste and smell aspects, some attention should be paid to three sight features: cleanliness, density and color. Cleanliness is based on the oil age and the filtration and decanting processes. Density will depend on the product territorial origin, while the color that may vary from golden yellow to deep green, will vary according to the variety of the olive used, the ripeness of the fruit, the date of the harvest and the oilmaking process. The touch and taste perceptions, in addition to those gathered from the smell and sight analysis, provide the grounds for a final value judgment that must be based on the harmonious coexistence among all these sensations.

Bodega Luigi Bosca
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