The ‘a’ to ‘z’ of olives
At O&CO. we use a variety of terms, references and technical processes, but everything is not always as it seems. You may find it useful to know whether filtered or unfiltered oils are best or what exactly a cold press olive oil means and how it affects the taste and quality of the oil. The 'a to z' of olives is your resource for information on some of the most important things we think everyone should know about olives and their oils.
Acidity Levels for extra virgin olive oil is less than 0.8%. O&CO.’s olive oils have less than 0.4% acidity. Most of the olive oils you'll find in the average supermarket have low acidity levels (and are extra virgin) but have no defined taste profile (i.e. in the O&CO. world, this means sub-par to our standards). While acidity is a requirement for whether an oil is considered extra virgin, we use several other chemical variables to assess the ultimate quality of a particular olive oil.
AOC is a French government designation certifying that the oil meets serious rigorous guidelines. The AOC certificate assures that the olives are grown in France and the olive oil is produced in France, respecting certain criteria, such as density of plantation, harvesting methods, size minimums, and preparation without the use of chemicals or artificial preservatives. The yield and production of the total area must be declared to the Institute, so as to assure that no olive oil from other areas is added. In order to obtain the certificate of approval, every plot is subject to analyses and tastings before production.
BEST BEFORE DATE (BBD)
The type of soil and climate where olive trees are grown will affect a variety of the crop’s characteristics, including the size of each olive and the richness of the oil that it produces. As olive harvests occur in the winter, frost and capricious temperatures can damage crops, causing minimal oil production from each olive. Additionally, rocky soil prevents trees from absorbing water, which limits oil production. The soil and the type of climate will significantly influence the aromatic potential of the future oil.
In the history of olive oil, two pressings were generally executed to create one full batch; the first at room temperature (‘the best quality’), and the second at a warmer temperature, with the addition of hot water (an ‘inferior quality’). This old screw press only managed to extract about 40% of oil from the olive paste.
Once powerful hydraulic presses were introduced, only a single pressing was necessary. Today, 90% of olive oil is extracted during the first pressing. There is no longer a second pressing or hot-pressed extra virgin olive oil. You will find the term “Cold extraction” on all O&CO. oils, which really means “extraction at not too high a temperature.”
Many people are still looking for 'first cold pressed' as an inscription of quality, however, we believe the information that appears on O&CO. tins and bottles, such as the best by date, harvest month, olive varieties and country of origin are much more accurate in representing an olive oil’s quality.
"Extra" is the highest grade for olive oil - the best you can buy. Extra virgin olive oil is obtained only from the olive, the fruit of the olive tree, using solely mechanical or other physical means in conditions, particularly thermal conditions, which do not alter the olive oil in any way. It has not undergone any treatment other than washing, decanting, centrifuging and filtering. Extra virgin olive oils are not processed or refined. They are not chemically altered in any way. It is essentially 'freshly squeezed' from the fruit of the olive tree, without alteration of the color, taste, and nutrients or vitamins. Because of the integrity of the product, and its antioxidant components, olive oil will keep longer than other vegetable oils.
The virgin oil produced from the mechanical pressing may be called "extra" if it has less than 0.8 % free oleic acid, and if it exhibits superior taste, color and aroma. Thus, the "extra" in extra virgin olive oil means "premium," or simply, "the best". “Extra Virgin” is the highest official standard that can be found on the market.
Central criteria used to determine an oil’s quality:
1) The level of acidity in the oil and;
2) On a scale of 0 (worst quality) to 9 (best quality), an extra virgin oil must receive 6.5 to 9 by a professional taster.
Our Everyday oils follow the same O&CO. guidelines as our Grand Crus, but at a price designed for daily use.
The most noticeable difference between an unfiltered and a filtered extra virgin olive oil is appearance. You may find filtered and unfiltered olive oils at your local supermarket, the latter of which tend to have more of a cloudy appearance. In an unfiltered oil, you may notice some sediment (the remaining olive fruit particles) settled on the bottom of the bottle. Don’t be alarmed! This will not affect the taste or quality of the oil.
Although the majority of O&CO. oils tend to be filtered, over the years we've selected some truly remarkable unfiltered oils as well. Ultimately, the decision to filter an oil or not is a preference of the producer.
Certified by Oliviers & Co., the “Grand Cru” selections are the perfect expression of some of the most beautiful terroirs of the Mediterranean. In the tradition of the finest wines, we bring you the best, to be discovered and enjoyed by all.
The main health benefit of extra virgin olive oil is that it lowers “bad” cholesterol in the system and cleans the arteries, in turn helping to prevent strokes and heart attacks. Nutritionally, olive oil contains more mono-unsaturated fat than any of the popular vegetable oils: over 70% of olive oil is composed of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which is a good fat that lowers the level of bad cholesterol only. Virgin olive oils also contain the antioxidants beta-carotene and Vitamin E, as well as the phenolic compounds tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol.
A tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, and no cholesterol.
Oxidation is caused by prolonged contact with air. Rancid is the attribute used to qualify an olive oil that has been oxidized. This flavor is unpleasant and irreversible. When olive oil is exposed to oxygen, light, and heat, it is subject to oxidation and may become rancid. Proper storage can prevent this. As soon as you open the bottle or tin, the oxidation process accelerates and the oil will degrade fairly rapidly. Make sure you keep your oil away from sources of heat like your stove. You do not have to refrigerate your olive oil, just use it often and enjoy!
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) is part of the Protected Geographical Status system in the European Union (EU). This framework is designed to protect the integrity of European food and drink by carefully legislating the labeling of certain European products. When something is given a PDO, it means that only items produced in a specific area in a particular way may bear that label in the European market. PDO products must be produced, processed and prepared in a specific region using traditional production methods. The raw materials must also be from the defined area whose name the product bears. The quality or characteristics of the product must be essentially or exclusively to its place or origin, i.e., climate, the nature of the soil and local know-how.
For example, champagne has a PDO label, meaning that only sparkling wines produced in a specific style in the French region of Champagne may be labeled as “champagne.”
The idea behind this system is that Europe has many very unique regional food traditions. By protecting these foods, the European Union can ensure that traditional methods of food production are preserved. The government can also encourage people to stay settled in rural areas by providing an economic incentive to produce traditional foods, and they can increase consumer confidence by certifying that foods with a PDO label are produced to a basic standard.
Our Rameaux d’Or assortment features Grand Cru oils produced from exceptional groves located exclusively in Tuscany. The gold bottle is symbolic of these rare olive oil gems, which we liken to the finest Bordeaux.
Enjoy a journey to Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece with our signature Collection. Showcased in tins designed to exemplify the heritage of each respective olive oil producing region, you’ll find Grand Cru olive oils at a price designed for daily use.
Terroir is how a particular region’s climate, soils and terrain affect the taste of agricultural products such as olive oil, wine, coffee, chocolate, hops, tomatoes, heritage wheat, and tea.
Terroir can very loosely be translated as "a sense of place," discernible in the flavor of its food, which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the production of the product.
As a guideline, O&CO. enforces strict controls whereby all products are tracked from harvesting to bottling. We know the olive trees and producers from where each bottle originates. On each O&CO. label, consumers can read the exact origin of the vintage, including the producer, the varietals of olives used, the total quantity available, and, of course, the harvest date. There is also a systematic control of all products in the laboratory of Eric Verdier, Olivier & Co.’s creative director and quality manager, before they are made available in our boutiques (specifically 1200 product controls and 900 olive oil tastings within 1 year’s term).
More than 100 types of olives are used worldwide to produce olive oil, each one possessing unique characteristics. For example, the Hojiblanca variety from Spain is known to produce a delicate oil with a slightly citrus flavor, while the Frantoio variety, found in the Italian region of Tuscany, is known to offer a rich taste reminiscent of artichokes. Some olives are particularly suited to the production of oil, others make better table olives (ex: Lucques) and others are good for both (ex: Cailletier and Nocellara del Belice). Some olive oils are made of one single type of olive. Example: the O&CO. Mantinea & Avia that is composed of 100% Koroneiki olive. Many olive oils are a mix of several varieties of olives and the result will change according to the proportion used. (Example: Two O&CO. oils from Sicily are made out of the same three varieties of olives: Biancolilla, Cerasuola and Nocellara del Belice but in different proportions, which yields two different oils.) The varietals of olives used are fundamental for the final quality of the oil. Overall, a superior olive oil is made thanks to the producer's expertise of the different olive varieties. The grower’s main goal is to achieve a full aromatic maturity instead of a physical one. If the strengths and weaknesses of the varietals are known, the best mix and percentage of each olive can be determined. The result will be an olive oil with no defect and a richness in taste and quality.
The vast majority of exceptional quality olive oils are made from green olives whose perfect maturity is reached when the lenticels on the surface of the skin are fully developed. The outstanding grand crus from Tuscany are usually harvested when the olive is green and the flesh doesn’t detach easily from the pit.