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Extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil and regular olive oil. What’s the difference?

Together with Spain, Tunisia and Greece, Italy is among the world’s first olive oil producers. Nonetheless, there is often a lack of knowledge about this topic. We need to catch up, so let’s do our homework! The exact qualitative standards that oil has to meet to be sold as “EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL” are defined in the Commission Regulation (EEC) no. 2568/1991, with subsequent amendments and completions.

Let’s take a systematic look.

Extra virgin olive oil and virgin olive oil.

Both virgin and extra virgin olive oil are the results of the olives’ first pressing. The main difference between them lies in their organoleptic features and percentages of oleic acid (acidity):

  • extra virgin olive oil: it’s a flawless, high quality product and its acidity limit is 0.8 grams per 100 grams;
  • virgin olive oil: presents some defects but its acidity doesn’t exceed 2 grams for 100 grams.

– The acidity of our olive oil is less than 0.2 grams per 100 grams: this allows us to fully meet not only the standards required for Extra Virgin Olive Oil, but also the even stricter DOP Monti Iblei certification label, which set the limit of oleic acid at 0.5 grams per 100 grams. –

After this brief self-congratulatory note, let’s go on with further information.

Extra virgin olive oil and regular olive oil.

The main difference lies in the extraction method. Extra virgin olive oil is obtained solely by mechanical processes. Olive oil, instead, is a mix of refined oil (extracted by chemicals) and virgin oil. In this case, the acidity cannot exceed 1 gram per 100 grams. We want to emphasize that oil acidity cannot be distinguished during the tasting, but only through chemical analysis. Organoleptic analysis (panel testing), on the other hand, allows the detection of other features through smell and taste. For that matter, the real aim of a panel test is to detect product defects.

But that is a beautiful story we’ll tell you another time.

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