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Characteristics and quality

When it comes to olive oil, we should not confuse quality with variety. For instance, two varieties of olive trees can produce olive oils that share the same quality but exhibit completely distinct characteristics with respect to colour, aroma and flavour.

The most important thing is to know how to choose olive oil. Finding out which flavour we like best and which one is most appropriate to each situation.

The region where the olive is produced, as well as its maturity and variety, the olive oil extraction process, the conservation method and the state of health and hygiene of olives are essential characteristics in defining the quality of the olive oil that is produced.

In addition, olive oil quality can be verified through chemical and organoleptic (taste) analysis.

Chemical analysis tests acidity (amount of free fatty acids expressed as a percentage of oleic acid), the peroxide index (checks the initial oxidation of olive oil and its deterioration) and ultraviolet absorbency (detects abnormal aspects of olive oil).

Organoleptic analysis is conducted by a group of specialized tasters that use their senses to detect the olive oil’s characteristics, which are conveyed by their smell and flavour.

Various factors influence the chemical and organoleptic characteristics of an olive oil: soil type, olive tree variety, the climate where the olives are born and grow, along with cultivation techniques.

Degree of acidity

The acidity of olive oil is related to the percentage of free fatty acids present in its composition, as well as the olive’s variety and state of maturity when harvested.

Although the degree of acidity of olive oil is an important factor in classification as virgin olive oil or extra virgin olive oil, it is not indicative of quality or flavour.

Olive oil’s flavour and aroma results from the balance between different compounds (approximately 70), maturity of the olives at the time of production, microclimate, soil characteristics and olive variety.

Good olive oils generally have low acidity levels, and a better, more meticulous olive harvest and transformation process tends to result in lower levels of acidity.

Depending on its degree of acidity and flavour characteristics, olive oil can be classified as:

Extra virgin olive oil

With an intense flavour and the smell of a healthy olive, its acidity is less than or equal to 0.8%.

Virgin olive oil

Of good quality, with the flavour and smell of a healthy olive, its acidity is equal to or less than 2%.