The first Spanish National Extra Virgin Olive Oil Team Tasting Championship was a resounding success. Held in Priego de Cordoba in Southern Spain the championship attracted 13 teams of 3 from all over Spain. Staged by the PDO for the region Priego de Córdoba (ASCCAL) and International Extra Virgin Olive Oil Savantes the event used the Savantes Tasting Skills Test and additional exercises to assess the tasting ability of the teams.

Included in the tests were extra virgin olive oils contributed by producers from France, Italy, Greece, Spain and Portugal with the varietals including ocale, picual, arbequina, hojblanca, coratina, cobrancosa, galega, koroneiki, changlot real, manzanilla, cornicabra, l’aglandau, olivastra seggianese, tonda iblei and picuda. An important activity of Savantes is to encourage recognition and appreciation of extra virgin olive oils from all varietals and regions around the world.

In 1997 Olive Business planted an olive grove, with the aim of producing extra virgin olive oil of the highest quality. We explore this legacy of olive oil production and how it has led to an international olive oil appreciation movement.

For 16 years Olive Business through its subsidiary Extra Virgin Olive Oil Savantes, has brought together the world’s best extra virgin olive oils for tasting, initially in Australia and now all over the world – UK, USA, Italy, Spain, South Africa and New Zealand. In addition to evaluating flavours, the three-day programme covers the olive oil market, quality regulations, culinary uses, health benefits and competitions.

LUX Award - Best Olive Oil Experts - Australia

Originally published in Spanish in Olimerca 2016

Extra virgin olive oil is a food ingredient to be used in the preparation of food and to add flavour. The most enlightening demonstration of the influence the oil has on the taste and texture of food is the comparison of different varietal extra virgin olive oils used in the same dishes.

Why then do we use highly technical terms in the official tasting format when describing the flavour of olive oil? The tasting laboratory should reflect the consumer’s kitchen not the producer’s mill. 

The scoring sheet of the world’s most rigorous competition for extra virgin olive oils, the Mario Solinas Award, reflects the gap between the simple language used to describe extra virgin olive oils to consumers and that of the technicians who are the competition judges.

The heading ‘sensory assessment sheet’ could simply be ‘flavour assessment’. Olfactory sensations could change to ‘aroma’ and gustatory-retronasal sensations to ‘taste’. The sum of aroma and taste would be better described as ‘flavour’ rather than ‘olfactory-gustatory sensations’.

Originally published in Spanish in Mercacei in November 2016.

Olive trees were brought to Australia and New Zealand by some of the first European migrants and scattered groves and individual trees persist from these plantings. In Western Australia in 1846 two Spanish Benedictine monks established a mission with an olive grove at New Norcia which exists to this day. In 1835 in New Zealand the explorer Charles Darwin mentioned olive trees planted at Waimate North on the northern tip of the North Island.

Some of Australia’s oldest olive trees at New Norcia, north-east of Perth,
Western Australia.

Approximately 150 years later, driven by nurseries promoting the establishment of commercial olive groves, the olive industry in both countries started the current resurgence. There was a small number of commercial groves which persisted from previous planting cycles with a few local brands of olive oil and table olives available through specialty food stores. In Australia there was one brand produced in South Australia which continued to be available in supermarkets. Ironically the brand name was Viva.