We all know that olive oil is good for us and that it’s said to make all Mediterranean’s healthy, but at least once in your life you’ve found yourself standing in a supermarket isle looking at a plethora of olive oil nomenclature on labels wondering to yourself, which ones do those effervescent Mediterranean’s actually consume?
To answer this I studied the International Olive Council’s (IOC) website and whilst there was a little confusion, I got some help from a lovely lady in their office. To class a Virgin Olive Oil, the IOC insist, “Virgin olive oils are the oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration”.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The Rolls Royce of olive oils. It’s the riches in antioxidants and polyphenols. To achieve its “Extra” status, it has to have an oleic acid level of not more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams and this provides it with a slightly better taste and maximises its health benefits.
Virgin Olive Oil
To achieve its “Virgin” status, it has to have an oleic acid level of not more than 2 grams per 100 grams
Ordinary Virgin Olive Oil
To achieve its “Ordinary Virgin” status, it has to have an oleic acid level of not more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams.
Refined Olive Oil
Is obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods which must not alter the initial glyceridic structure. It has to have an oleic acid level of not more than 0.3 grams per 100 grams. Its important to note that refined oils often lack the antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that are so rich in Virgin Olive Oil.
Is a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive and has to have an oleic acid level of not more than 3.3 grams per 100 grams.
In addition to the above you might come across an Olive-Pomace Oil. These are second-class oils and can be produced with the use of solvents and can be blended with oils of other kinds.
What about First Cold Press, why is not listed above? Well it is not an IOC nomenclature. Many years ago when they used mats to press olives, there was such a thing as first press and second press, but this is no longer the case. Today it’s just pure marketing hype. With such stringent IOC governance over what constitutes the different grades, it’s about finding an oil that tantalises your taste buds and still fits your budget.
Talking of marketing, don’t be fooled by those that label their oils “Light”. Its not an approved IOC description and has nothing to do with calories. If anything they tend to be lighter in flavour only!
Another useful thing is to understand that Olive Oil unlike red wine,-does not get better with age. Therefore, try looking at the labels and try and find those with the most recent harvesting dates.