Expert Corner: Olive Oil Sensory Evaluation

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By examining the sensory properties, Extra Virgin Olive Oil is judged according to the characteristics of its odor and taste, assessing its strengths and weaknesses.

The oil is infact equipped with complex sensory properties comprising of about 200 compounds that cause the different aromas.

A standardized procedure is coded by the EU Regulation 796/2002 which sets out the parameters by which the assessment must be carried out.

To evaluate the sensory properties of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a panel of 8-10 tasters is established. This number is sufficient to make an objective assessment of the presence and intensity of either positive or negative sensations.

The average threshold of a group composed in this way is regarded as a representative of the whole population.

Each taster within the group, kept isolated and independent, in a single, special and instrumented cabin, shall proceed to the tasting analysis by following a coded card which contains two lists: one with negative attributes, i.e, most common sensory defects in olive oil, and one with positive attributes. For example, the perception of the presence and intensity of the fruity aroma, bitter and spicy nuances that make it more or less harmonious. The assessor then points out in card the intensity with which he perceives the merits and defects of the oil.

The “flavor” is the joint feeling of olfactory, gustatory and tactile characteristics
The test is divided into two phases: the olfactory and tasting analysis.

During the olfactory analysis, after having brought the oil to about 27 degrees centigrade, it is sucked deeply with both nostrils several times.

Through a scale of increasing values (mild, medium, intense, very intense) the intensity of odors is measured.

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The greenly fruit of extra virgin olive oil normally corresponds to the perception of the odor of healthy olive, fresh, taken at the right level of maturity, followed by feelings of green apple, fresh almonds, tomatoes, or more generally from flowers and herbs.

In the tasting analysis, the extra virgin olive oil is put into the mouth and swirled to come into contact with the taste buds, without swallowing.

It is essential to analyze the tactile sensations/feelings namely fluidity, consistency, unctuousity and above all the sweet, bitter and spicy sensations of taste.

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