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Glossary of olive oil terminology

Glossary of olive oil terminology


What Kind of Olive Oil Should You Buy? Cold-pressed, first pressed, or unfiltered? Here's a list of terms you might see on a bottle of olive oil to help you make a choice.

A glossary of olive oil terminology

Virgin Olive Oil - The use of the term "virgin" to describe an olive oil indicates that the oil has been extracted only mechanically at low temperatures without the use of chemicals and that it meets the quality standards for that variety. When olive oil is NOT labeled "virgin", it is an indication that at least some of the olive oil in the product has been refined using a process similar to the process used to produce vegetable oil. Olive oil, which has been refined by definition, contains oil that is not as aromatic as virgin olive oil...but has the same desirable fatty acid composition (i.e., mostly monounsaturated fats) as virgin oil.

Extra Virgin – As in life, when it comes to olive oil, going extra virgin is a yes-or-no decision. When an extra virgin olive oil is called “extra”, it does not mean that it is “more” virgin; Rather, the term indicates that the oil is a premium or premium virgin oil that meets higher quality standards than those that apply to ordinary "virgin" quality olive oil.

Cold Pressed and First Cold Press - The use of the terms 'cold pressed' or 'first cold press' on an extra virgin olive oil label is intended to indicate that the oil has been processed by mechanical means at temperatures below 27ºC (80.6ºF). The use of these terms is redundant; According to international standards now in force worldwide, for olive oil to be labeled "virgin" (including "extra virgin"), it must be extracted by mechanical means at temperatures that do not alter the oil (and of course, without chemicals). To the extent that these terms refer to a “press,” the term is mostly figurative—almost all olive oil is extracted using other mechanical means (malaxers and centrifuges) instead of presses. Therefore, the terms "cold-pressed" and "first cold press" have little meaning in today's world. Learn more about how olive oil is extracted.

Single Variety – Most olive oil is made from a blend of different olive varieties. Single variety means that the bottle is made from olives of one variety.

Estate Bottled - This means the oil was harvested and pressed on the same farm where the olives were grown.

Early Harvest - Early harvest olive oil means the olives were picked before they were fully ripe. Early harvest olive oil has a pepperier and more bitter taste. Sometimes a harvest is performed ahead of schedule of their own free will. But in some regions (e.g. Tuscany) where there is a risk of early frosts that could harm the trees, an early harvest may be considered necessary.

Olio nuovo - This means "new oil". It refers to olive oil that has been recently harvested and extracted. It is a seasonal product, only available in Fall/Winter (when harvested in the Northern Hemisphere), and is typically extremely fresh, robust, and aromatic.

Unfiltered - Most of the olive oil is filtered to remove olive solids. Unfiltered olive oil uses gravity to separate the solids from the oil. Some sediment may remain. Read more about unfiltered oil.

Organic – Like other forms of organic produce, organic olive oil means that the olives have been grown without the use of chemical pesticides or chemical fertilizers. An accredited organization must certify the olives as organic.

Bitter/Robust/Tender - This is a description of the taste. Robust means a full-bodied taste that combines well with other strong flavors such as tomato or meat. Delicate or mild olive oil goes well with fish or vegetables.

Extra Light Flavor - Extra light olive oil has the same number of calories as all olive oils. The term refers to the taste, which is neutral.

DOP - Denominazione d' Origine Protetta (roughly "Protected Designation of Origin") means that the oil was made from olives grown and processed in a specific area. There are also seals offered by the European Union that indicate "Protected Designation of Origin" or "Protected Geographical Indication".

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