The sensorial facets of a single extra virgin olive oil
Under the wider meaning of the concept of “quality” comes the “uniqueness” of an extra virgin olive oil, a characteristic that is associated with the production of extra virgin olive oils of single origin.
An extra virgin olive oil is defined as unique if it comes with the history and culture of its origins, as well as the expertise of its producers and the intimate connection with the region of production: in other words, an oil is unique if it has its own identity.
On the other hand, the organoleptic profile of the extra virgin olive oils of the main consumer brands is standardized, having been calibrated on the tastes of a wide range of consumers. To obtain this result, the olive oil industry relies on the practice of “blending” mixing extra virgin olive oils from different origins. This does not mean that a mass-market oil is not a quality product and that the practice of blending is to be demonised but, unlike an extra virgin olive oil of single origin, its quality is not an expression of “uniqueness”.
Many factors contribute to giving an oil its own clear and irreproducible identity: the environment (soil variety, climate), the agronomic influences (the period and the harvesting techniques and, above all, the varieties of olives that have been adapted over the years to each specific area) as well as local traditions and experiences.
In this respect, Italy is a precious mosaic of “terroir” suited to the production of extra virgin olive oils of single origin. Their identities are expressed in a wide range of characteristic scents: freshly cut grass, almond, artichoke, green leaf, tomatoes, but also many other flavours that stimulates the senses to experiment with a great variety of combinations.
Oils obtained from different varieties can be as diverse as the wines made from different vines: the yellow-coloured Ligurian oil obtained from Taggiasca olives has a light fruity taste with a sweet sensation, while the intense green oil typical of central Tuscany is pungent and herby. Sicilian oils are aromatic and fragrant, while the main theme of the oil of northern Puglia is its bitter note, an expression of the Coratina cultivar.
Learning about the many traditional oils of our regions is not only a way to increase your gastronomic knowledge, but also allows you to get to know about the history and culture of the areas where they are produced and the people who live there, through the close bonds between a product and the land that grows it.