Press release 6

The parameters of quality in olive oil: how to distinguish them…

…is a fundamental point in order to be able to distinguish between products, each with different prices, in determining the quality in the olive oil and the determination of the value: what are the key parameters?

ACIDITY:

the lower the value the higher the price of the oil, however this is not a strict rule and it is not automatic that oil with low acidity will have good taste and aroma. The current legislation indicates that 0.8% is the maximum allowed level of acidity in order for a product to use the labeling EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL

DEGREE OF OLIVE MATURITY:

On average, 20 kg of oil (yield) is produced from a total of 1 quintal of mature olives; if the olives are harvested in advance before full maturation (these olives produce oils with more accentuated aromas that are normally referred to as ‘FRUIT-FUELLED’ and in particular contain higher values of natural antioxidants such as polyphenols and vitamin E) then the total yield is lower resulting in a higher price due to the limited quantity produced.

ORGANOLEPTIC ASSESSMENT:

The organoleptic assessment, that is the actual tasting, is the true judge of the quality of an oil. In fact it often occurs that oils with perfect analytical results often present noteworthy defects in the organoleptic assessment, sometimes so much so as to downgrade the product thereby causing a fall in price.

QUANTITY AVAILABLE:

This variable is particularly true for special oils such as DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) and oils derived from organic agriculture. Except for a few rare exceptions, DOP oils are derived from very small areas of cultivation resulting in limited yields (for example Garda DOP or DOP Umbria). Organically managed olive groves are also not widely diffused at present. As a result the raw materials cost much more than other oils owing to the rule of supply & demand as well as for their subsequent high quality.

METHOD OF HARVEST:

Another fundamental element in determining the price is the type of harvesting employed, in particular handpicking or ‘combing’ which becomes indispensable when the olives are cultivated in inaccessible areas such as the majority of those in Umbria (on coastal hillsides) which therefore results in high labor costs.

CLIMATIC CONDITIONS:

As with any agricultural product, the quality of the oil is strongly influenced by climatic conditions in the 11 months between one harvest to the next. In particular, the olive tree is badly affected by drought, humidity, frost (especially if this happens during spring when the plant is already growing) and also hail storms occurring in late summer when the fruits are already at an advanced stage. All these elements can determine poor harvests of low quality. The olive tree is a secular plant, this means it lives in strong symbiosis with the environment where it is placed, acquiring a ‘genetic code’ specific to the characteristics of the area. This means that even subtle (by human standards) changes in the microclimate will change the value of the overall quality of the yield. Summarizing we can say that the oil obtained from the same olive presents different shades of quality from one harvest to another, and this is a factor that significantly tests the ability of producers to endeavor to offer a product with a taste as constant as possible over time.