What is ‘Extra Virgin’ Olive Oil?

Just when things are beginning to quieten down for us in the wine world, the world of olive oil production is just kicking into action.  This past week olive pickers were out in droves harvesting this year’s bounty. 

Take a look at this short video (in fact one of our most watched videos!) to see how we go about harvesting olives in Provence.

I have been in Provence helping out with the harvest since the summer and during this time I got to watch the olive trees of various varieties ripen alongside the vines. I couldn’t help but compare them to grapes as I watched them going through their olive ‘veraison’ (colour change). On numerous occasions I would taste them in hope that they would be similar to the olives I loved eating, however, I was bitterly disappointed (pardon the pun). Olives straight off the tree are not exactly palatable no matter what stage of ripeness they are in. It is hard to imagine something that tastes so ghastly can turn into something so amazing! How do these bitter little fruits turn into such delightful liquid and what does extra virgin really mean?

The Olive Facts

According to my favourite olive oil resource ‘The Olive Oil Times’ extra virgin is basically freshly pressed olive juice that contains no more that 0.8 grams/100grams of oleic acid and is extracted using no additives. To be able to use this designation on the label it must also go through chemical analysis and a tasting panel, rules of which are set out by the International Olive Council But seeing ‘extra virgin’ on the label will not tell you anything about the flavour of the oil. This is dictated by the variety of the olive, the time of harvest, and the time that the olives spend resting after harvest.

Question Time

What are some of the questions you have always wanted to ask about olive oil? We plan to visit several olive mills in the coming months and would love to be able to have answered not only our questions but yours as well. Feel free to send your question via the comments section below or email me meeghan@winesagasu.com or Stephen at stephen@mirabeauwine.com.

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