A few weeks ago I was in Florence attending a Tuscan wine and food event, and as part of the event, there was the possibility of attending an olive oil tasting course and knowing I much I love extra virgin olive oil, I could not miss the opportunity.
The course was run by a professional olive oil sommelier or taster, in Italian they are called “assaggiatore”, and even though the oils on tasting were Tuscan, the course went beyond Tuscan olive oils (the various IGT and DOPs) and cultivars (olive varieties). Before starting the course, the sommelier introduced himself and asked us to introduce ourselves. There were not many people attending, the weather in Florence was still of late summer and I don’t blame the ones that decided to spend the afternoon visiting Ponte Vecchio or the Uffizi, however, I had been to Florence many times before and preferred to spend the afternoon learning more about olive oil.
My passion for olive oil is not as old as my passion for wine, both products have plenty of similarities. I always liked a good extra virgin olive oil and, in my home, extra virgin olive oil is used for everything. It could not have been any different coming from a family that used to produce their own olive oil and still has, I am planning to restart production soon, olives grove in Abruzzo.
Amongst the importers attending the course, each one representing a different European country, shared how extra virgin olive oil is perceived and each country had a different perception, still, it was everywhere considered an ingredient and underappreciated; we all agreed that extra virgin oil wasn’t considered as it deserves. A good extra virgin olive oil not only can make or break a dish, but it is one of the best, and cheaper considering how long a bottle lasts, superfood around with its vitamins and polyphenols content
that have been proved to help us to enjoy a better and healthier life.
The problem according to us and the sommelier was the lack of a food culture o “cultura del cibo”, intended as food knowledge and the use of this knowledge to make thoughtful choices for a happier and healthier life. If our choices were made with this in mind, many food derived health issues such as obesity or diabetes only to mention a couple, would not exist, and we would not need a nanny state to tell us what to or not to eat.
During the course we tasted 6 or 7 extra virgin olive oils, blind tasted, and not only we had to identify each oil characteristics but hidden amongst them, there were two faulty oils: one very evident and the other slightly, and a cheap, supermarket olive oil. Exactly like when tasting wine, everyone had a different nose and palate, so we all picked different aromas and characteristics, but I was able to spot the faulty oils, which made me very happy, and identify their characteristics. My nose and palate are getting there, been training for years tasting wine.
The course was meant to last the afternoon, but we stayed longer, we really enjoyed it and the conversation that came and left promising each other that would have done more to promote and protect extra virgin olive oil.