Chianti Classico Olive OilThe Chianti Classico zone in central Tuscany is famous not just for its wine, but for its fine olive oil. Photo courtesy




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KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE. She has a fondness for green and grassy olive oils.


November 2005
Last Updated December 2014

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Oils, Vinegars & Salad Dressings

The Flavors & Aromas of Olive Oil

Olive Oil Taste: Why Do The Flavors Vary So Much?


Part II


Why Oils Taste Different

Why will 30 oils taste so distinctly different? The following factors play a role in the quality of olive oil produced:

Agriculture Harvesting Production
  • Cultivar of olive
  • Climate (latitude of
    production area)
  • Soil type
  • Cultural techniques
    (irrigation, drainage,
    pesticide residues, etc.)
  • Health of fruit (degree of
    pest and disease
  • Maturity of fruit (time of
  • Harvesting method
  • Harvesting method
  • Method and period of
    post-harvest fruit
  • Method of fruit
  • transport
  • Oil extraction
    (including extraction
  • Method and period
    of oil storage prior
    to packing
  • Type of packaging
    (bottle, can)
  • Period of storage in
    final package prior
    to use

According to expert Paul Vossen, head of the California Olive Oil Tasting Panel, the top determinants affecting flavor are:

  1. Quality production and storage methods. The biggest determinant—no surprise—is that you must start with good olives.
  2. Fruit Maturity. A Tuscan and a Spanish olive picked green may produce a more similar oil than a Tuscan olive picked late or early in the season.
  3. Olive Variety. Download a U.C. Davis paper by Paul Vossen (the University of California at Davis is the country’s leading school for olive agriculture).
  4. Growing Region. Just as chardonnay grapes grown in Australia, California, Chile, France and South Africa produce distinctively different wines, the same is true with the identical olive cultivar grown in different regions.
  5. Seasonal Variations. Both weather and growing conditions affect the flavor.

While pressing method is often mentioned as a determinant, and there is much discussion of different pressing techniques, according to Vossen, if the olives are properly pressed, the same olives will produce very similar oils regardless of the pressing technique.

For more information about olive oil, visit The Olive Oil Source.


Go To The Article Index Above


Learn More About Olive Oil

The Flavors of Olive Oil Olive Oil Zingerman's
The Flavors of Olive Oil, A Tasting Guide and Cookbook, by Elizabeth Krasner. This book may be the answer to your prayers as you browse the fifty or more different labels of olive oil on the shelves. It is a great introductory course to regional differentiations in taste and so much more. Click here for more information. Olive Oil From Tree to Table, by Peggy Knickerbocker. The complete story of olive oil, taking you firsthand to witness the harvesting, pressing, and grading of the oil; color photos make you feel as if you were witnessing the process. With 112 great recipes. Click here for more information. Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating, by Ari Weinzweig. The famed Ann Arbor specialty food store owner demystifies olive oil plus cheese, pasta, chocolate, and other gourmet favorites. Click here for more information.


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