“Certainly, anything claiming to be Italian oil that costs below, say, $12 per liter should be avoided, as it virtually can’t be Italian from this year’s harvest and cost that little (prices for 100% Italian extra virgin olive oil have skyrocketed as this bad harvest has emerged). Anything cheaper virtually has to be – wholly or in part – last year’s oil, or another country’s oil, or some other vegetable oil. Be doubly suspicious of anything that claims to come from Tuscany, Umbria or another of the harder-hit regions.”
He advises trying Greek oils, as they were relatively unaffected.
“This is the reality of extra virgin olive oil,” he wrote. “Some years the harvest just isn’t good, even in the best production areas in the world, and oil is scarce or of poor quality. Just as some vintages of a given wine region are so-so, some excellent.
“People need to understand that this is a fresh agricultural crop, a fresh-squeezed fruit juice, and not an industrially-produced liquid fat.”
Mueller says that although California oil has made headway, he hesitates to give a blanket recommendation for them as an alternative, because “frankly, I hear about a lot of games being played there too, with labels and quality alike.”