The news is full of information about extra virgin olive oil. On the one hand, we read and hear about the benefits of incorporating more high quality extra virgin olive oil into our diets for healthier hearts, brains and general well-being. On the other hand, there are reports that up to 70 percent of extra virgin olive oil on U.S. store shelves may not be 100% authentic. In fact, it may not even be olive oil! What’s a health-conscious, earth-aware consumer to do?
My advice is to find a reputable source you can trust, such as vom FASS, and stick with it. While this statement may seem self serving (since we sell extra virgin olive oil at vom FASS) you may use the following three questions to help you evaluate the authenticity and quality of olive oil from any source.
Q: Where does the olive oil come from? The more information that is available, the more likely it is to be reliable.
– Wholesalers or directly from growers and producers?
– Country of origin and region within a country?
– Specifically which olive groves and trees?
– Who is the grower and where is it pressed?
vom FASS Answer:
We have long-term relationships directly with family growers and small producers in Italy, Greece, Spain and France from whom we source our extra virgin olive oil. vom FASS selects supplier partners whose sustainable and ethical production philosophy match our own high standards. The founder of vom FASS in Germany and vom FASS staff personally visit olive oil growers before harvest to inspect the quality of the olives to determine whether vom FASS will include that harvest in our offerings. As a vom FASS owner, I’ve had the opportunity to visit vom FASS product suppliers to see for myself where the trees grow that produce our olive oils and meet the growers and producers.
Our short, controlled supply chain (grower to presser to vom FASS) eliminates the opportunity for tampering along the way. The packaging includes the relevant IGP designation that guarantees a product originating from a region or a country whose quality, recipe and characteristics can be traced back to its geographical origin, as well as controlled organic certifications, as applicable. Finally, in our own food laboratory (vom FASS Germany), state-certified food experts continuously monitor the quality of our products.
Q: How has the olive oil been handled?
– How are the olives picked?
– How much time elapses between picking and pressing?
– What is the pressing method?
– How much time between pressing and packaging?
– How is the product packaged?
– How long before the product ends up on the store shelf?
– How is the product stored on the store shelf for tasting and purchasing?
vom FASS Answer:
Our suppliers hand pick their olives and quickly and carefully transport them to be pressed locally within 24 hours of picking, so there’s no chance of pre-crushing or fermentation due to transportation or storage. The olives are mechanically (no chemicals) cold-pressed according to the EU and International Olive Council‘s designation and definition of “extra virgin.” Our oils are unfiltered, with the exception of Pepone, which is lightly filtered.
The oil is immediately packaged and sealed in vom FASS’s unique “bag in box” (BiB) system, labeled with origin and specific batch information and shipped to vom FASS. The sealed BiB is not opened again until it is tapped in a vom FASS shop. Even after tapping it, the oil remains in that BiB on our shelves in our beautiful Amphora (crocks), protected from air, heat and light until the customer samples the fresh taste and purchases the bottles we fill for them.
vom FASS manages inventory forecasting to ensure we are able to get the new harvest oils on our shelves as soon as they are available. This means our customers have the unique opportunity early each year to taste very fresh extra virgin olive oils just a couple of months after the olives are picked, when it has a very green, grassy and pungent flavor. That “green” taste mellows out after a few months.
Q: How does the olive oil smell, taste and look?
vom FASS Answer:
There are five key factors that determine the flavor of olive oil (a future article!), but in general, the following characteristics can help you identify authentic, fresh, quality extra virgin olive oil:
- Sniff it: you should notice a fresh, green or fruity aroma. If it smells “off” or rancid, stop there. Hay, cardboard, vinegar, mud and mustiness are some of the aromas that indicate an olive oil has gone bad. It has to pass the “smell test” before you even consider moving on to a taste test. Read more about identifying rancidity or “fusty” olive oil.
- Taste it: Open your mouth, breathe in to dry your palate, and then take a little sip of oil from a spoon or glass – yes, just the oil! Real, quality olive oil should have a flavor – green, grassy, fruity, peppery, pungent, bitter – all of these flavors are hallmarks of good extra virgin olive oil. No flavor or a musty taste or greasy mouth feel are not good signs of a fresh, quality olive oil. Read more about tasting olive oil.
- Visually evaluate it:
- Your first visual cues should include the information on the labels:
- Does the label list any ingredients other than 100% extra virgin olive oil?
- Does it identify the geographic origin? The more specific the better.
- Does it state DOP, PGI (Protected Designation of Origin and quality certification) or IGP (less stringent) indication of geographical protection?
- What is the best by or harvest date?
- Is there a batch or other specific identification information?
- The appearance of the oil itself isn’t necessarily an easy way to pinpoint authenticity, but look for:
- Color may range from vivid green to gold to pale straw.
- An unfiltered extra virgin olive oil may be cloudy and/or have sediment. Don’t worry – that’s just more flavor and nutrients!
At vom FASS Mall of America, we are proud of our authentic extra virgin olive oils. We love to talk to you, guide you through the tasting process and help you select the extra virgin olive oil that is right for your palate and recipe!
2nd Generation Owner and producer of vom FASS Pepone and Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oils
We know exactly where the trees grow that produce our olive oil
Tamra Kramer, owner of vom FASS Mall of America, in Tuscan olive grove
Cooperative oil production facility in Tuscany