Believe it or not, there is an entire industry dedicated to tasting extra virgin olive oil that is just as intricate as wine tasting. All over the world at olive mills, tasting bars, and even specialized olive oil schools, sommeliers are evaluating EVOO using the strippagio technique to ensure that the best quality oil gets to the consumers that need it. While olive oil strippagio is a rigorous process, understanding the basics can dramatically improve your EVOO experience even without years of training.
What is Strippagio?
Strippagio (Italian for “stripping”) is a method for evaluating extra virgin olive oil that delivers the full sensory profile of the oil. It’s so named because it attempts to strip each flavour out of the ensemble of the oil so that it can be experienced individually and identified.
How is it done?
Luckily for the aspiring amateur olive oil sommelier, the process can be done easily at home. All you need are some small cups (that collection of souvenir shot glasses will work perfectly), some water or green apple slices to cleanse your palate, and some of Evoolution’s quality extra virgin olive oils to evaluate.
A warm oil is a fragrant oil. To make sure you’re getting the full bloom of your EVOO’s aromatics, you must gently warm the oil up. Hold the cup containing your oil in one hand and place your other hand tightly over the top of the cup. This will both warm the oil with your body heat and trap the released aromatics in the confined headspace of the glass.
Remove your hand from the top of the cup and inhale deeply several times. The sense of smell and sense of taste are intimately linked. By smelling the oil you’re gathering essential data for your brain on how to interpret the oil’s taste. This process accesses your orthonasal olfactory route.
Now to finally taste. Take a small sip of the oil, tilt your head forward so that the oil sits between your lips and teeth, and take a few shallow breaths through the sides of your mouth. This will coat your tastebuds and mucous membranes with tiny oil droplets so you can capture all its notes. Then swallow the oil. This will access your retronasal olfactory route and give you additional stimuli to evaluate.
Move on to your next sample, keeping in mind to start with your most mild oil and work your way up in intensity. Focus on the subtle differences during each part of the strippagio process. After evaluating a few samples be sure to take a break to maintain your taste sensitivity, as flavour burnout can occur easily.
What to Look for
Knowing which qualities to search for during the tasting process is key to a successful strippagio session. By keeping these three attributes in mind, you will set yourself up for success:
Fruitiness refers to the aromas derived from fresh olive fruit. It is perceived retronasally when the oil is still in the mouth. Fruity notes will differ based on olive cultivar and the conditions in which they grew.
Bitterness is detected at the back and sides of the mouth. Bitterness in an oil can vary depending on when in the growing season the olives were harvested. Younger olives tend to be more bitter while those harvested later in the season often have a smoother palate.
Pungency is the peppery sensation felt in the throat when swallowing the oil. It’s a similar experience to spiciness that occurs in the throat rather than the tongue. Pungency is linked to phenolic compounds present in olive oil. A high pungency indicates a healthy dose of biophenols. Don’t be afraid to cough at the pungency- it is a completely normal reaction!
Now that you know which qualities are preferable when tasting olive oil, it’s time to learn about which qualities are not. There are several undesirable notes that indicate poor quality:
- Other trace off-notes
These notes will become recognizable as you taste more oils, but don’t expect to find them in Evoolution’s EVOO as we ensure only the highest quality olive oils make it to our shelves!
You now have everything you need to take the next step on your olive oil adventure. Not only will this help you appreciate extra virgin olive oil more, but it’ll also help you pick which varieties and flavours are best for you. Evoolution offers the best quality olive oil, and now you can appreciate our EVOO to the fullest!