Posted by Olivia on Monday, March 1st, 2010
You may recall when I had an olive oil tasting party a few months ago. It was a blast. A totally delicious and enjoyable time spent with friends. It was also, I am learning, kind of amateur. Don't get me wrong, amateur is fine, if you're looking to entertain a few friends and consume some tasty olive oil together—which I was—but my journey in olive oil education is leading me to do some tasting that is a little bit closer to professional. So that's what I did this morning: I tasted like a professional.
I consulted my favorite olive oil education blog, Slick Extra Virgin, a straightforward, non-frilly, easy-to-follow blog written by Richard Gawel, that is about what it sounds like it's about: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and found this guide to tasting.
First, I prepared my kitchen, according to Slick Extra Virgin's requirements, setting out water, green apple slices and plastic cups (I didn't have the traditional blue tasting votives). The wine and cheese I included last time, while delicious, didn't actually do my tasting any favors.
I wanted to start small, so I began with just 3 Extra Virgin Olive Oils from The Olive Press: 1 delicate (AKA "mild") Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Sevillano), one medium Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Mission) and 1 robust Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Sonoma Valley Blend). See below for the specifics from Slick Extra Virgin:
Then, I set to work "assessing the oil's aroma." I found it useful to use this list of olive oil "descriptors" to qualify the oils' aromas as I sniffed them. Another great tool is this fantastic tasting wheel, created by Gawel. Here's the how-to on aroma assessment from Slick Extra Virgin:
Assessing the Oil’s Aroma
Finally, it was time to taste. I had initially hoped that I could dunk bread into the oil but as it turns out, tasting it straight is the best way to get the full effect. It's not necessary to actually swallow the oil—Gawel instructs that you spit it out, as you'll see below. I mostly spit it out, but I also tried (experimentally) swallowing the oil and, though it was a little funny, it wasn't unenjoyable.
Assessing the In Mouth Sensations of Flavour, Bitterness and Pungency (pepperyness)
Even if you spit, the oil can coat your mouth, leaving a film behind and making it tricky to taste the next sample. This is why it's important to have palate-cleansing water and crisp green apple slices on hand to freshen your mouth between samples.
While I still intend to do plenty of consumption of Extra Virgin Olive Oil with creamy cheese, crusty bread and full-bodied wine, it was great to begin to learn about the deeper complexities of this magnificant oil, as it will further inform how I use it with food. And food is, after all, what we're here for, right?