Appreciating olive oil as you would a fine wine

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These judges typically have backgrounds in science. How can any layman make sense of what’s the TwoBuck Chuck of olive oils and what’s the Grand Cru?

This question is how I wound up combing through the olive oil aisle of Fairway Market in Woodland Park recently, accompanied by Vice President Steve Jenkins. He was a speaker at the International Olive Oil Competition — which was sponsored by Fairway — and is the guy in charge of buying olive oil for the supermarket chain.

Faiirway carries 44 olive oils that won medals in the competition this year and last, including bottles from Portugal, Spain, France, Greece, Australia and California.

Here are Jenkins’ olive oil tips for those who want to learn more:

Good olive oil should make you want to cough.
Prized oils have a tingling, bitter quality and a pungent flavor that means the olives were harvested at the peak level of polyphenols, antioxidants that carry protective health benefits. Oil made from olives harvested later tends to be more mildly flavored, which is the problem with most mass-produced oils, Jenkins said (producers can make a higher profit from a later, bigger harvest).

“Olive oil is not meant to … just lay on food,” Jenkins says. “Olive oil’s purpose is to set that food on fire, to amplify that food. It’s that bitterness that makes that happen.”

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