oils ‘aint oils……

Olive oil is an essential ingredient within many cuisines and treasured around the world.

We love to use it to cook with, dress salads, dip our bread into it at the table with a little bit of balsamic.

However have you ever just taken a sip and really got to know your olive oil 'au naturel' ?

My mission was to explore the sensory virtues of 3 extra virgin olive oils, from different parts of the globe. The “Rosto” an Australian blended olive oil, the highly rated Italian olive oil Colonna from Molise and Gaea fro Sita in Crete.

Like wine, terroir, varietal, processing method, age at picking all give their own unique stamp to the olive oil and have an effect on the colour and flavour of the oil.

As I poured each sample I could see the variation in hues of each oil. The Australian oil was golden yellow brown in colour, the Colonna oil a vibrant lime green, and the Crete oil was in between exhibiting a more yellowy green hue.

First step is to absorb yourself in the aroma, deeply breathing it in and let my nose and mind interpret the smells. Only then can you place the oil to your mouth, yet be warned tasting oil is certainly an art in itself!

Firstly you need to take a slurp the oil into your mouth and keep it there as you swirl the oil around your mouth while with an slightly open mouth simultaneously suck in air so it can flow over the oil and allow the flavours to not only coat the tastebuds but also tickle your ‘retronasal’ senses so you experience the full extent of the oil.

Then you can then swallow or spit thought personally I think you really need to experience it all as allowing the oil to slide down your throat and into your stomach which then allows you to see if there are any particular lingering flavours or aftertaste characteristics.

Now although this sounds similar to tasting wine it was much more challenging. Olive oil is a viscous, slippery and difficult to swirl around the mouth without swallowing it or having it ‘oh so elegantly’ spill out your mouth, and then when this happens its hard not to burst into laughter …making you spit it all out in the hilarity!

However as I was here to learn I continued to work on my technique and eventually got the hang of it without making too much of messy mockery of myself!

First sample on the block was the Rosso. I put the glass to my nose and breathed to get woody, grassy, oaten hay aromas. I could also smell hints of toasted almond, boiled green vegetables yet also got a hint of fruitiness almost like green banana. On tasting it was greasy, thick and cloying with a mild pungency, or spicyness, at the back of the throat. I found the fattiness of the oil unpleasant to taste in this raw state so wouldn’t use this on a salad however perhaps it would be fine to cook with perhaps tossing some onion, garlic and chilli to before making a tomato pasta sauce or perhaps spaghetti with alio & pepperoncino!

The Colonna sample had a strong fruity aroma of fresh green apple yet also noticed a floral note with hints of lemongrass. As I tasted the first slurp I got a floral fruitiness almost citrus taste but also some herbaceous and yeasty notes like pickled green olives. It was extremely pungent almost spicy, like chilli hitting the back of my throat. This was soo strong that it made me cough and splutter and my throat felt itchy for a little time after, it also had quite a bitter and astringent aftertaste. For some this is a prized oil and one of the best, and it certainly has a price tag, yet I found it unbalanced. Perhaps it may be better with a little bread or drizzled over salad as it was too overpowering and inequitable for me.

The Gaea oil from Crete had a pleasurable fruity green apple aroma with a slight grassy aroma like freshly cut grass or lush green lucerne. It exhibited a pleasing pungency or pepperiness that slightly tickled my throat just enough to give it some piquancy without making me cough and splutter. Interestingly I also noted a hint of smokiness like fermented dried black olives.

Out of all three this would be the one I’d be willing to have in my kitchen. It would be perfect for many things be it drizzled over some freshly sliced tomatoes and basil or in the pan with some delicate blue eye cod or marron or just to dip chunks of fresh crusty pane di casa.

So next time you pull out your olive oil put a little into a small glass and truly taste it.....you may be surprised what you learn!