Thanks to Karen Cryan (Irish Olive Oil Sommelier/Taster) we have learnt a few tips for picking the best bottle of extra virgin olive oil (if you want to look smart call them EVOO), so we’ll share them with you here:
A Single Country of Origin
A good EVOO should carry the name of its country of origin and usually is from a designated geographical area (such as PGI or PDO) even if this last bit is not always on the label. Some of them are made from a blend of Olive Oils from various countries, they usually are not as good as a single country/region of origin.
The Best Before Date (BBD)
Some EVOO will have a harvest date on the label. In this case choose an oil as fresh as possible (with the most recent production date).
However most of the EVOO producers will only indicate a BBD. Within the EU, most countries typically allow 18 to 24 months after production (harvesting/bottling), so we would recommend that you always check the BBD and count back 18 months this way you will know how old the oil is. The Italians say “choose old wine and new oil”.
The Bottle Itself
Choose a dark glass bottle or a metal tin, I know they are not as pretty as the transparent glass bottle but remember that you are not buying Chanel n°5! Olive oil doesn’t like light! Like Wine, it doesn’t like heat and air either.
The other thing is the size of your bottle. Even if you find a crazy discount on a massive gallon-bottle of EVOO, remember that once produced, it only starts deteriorating, especially when opened. Buying small quantities at a time will help keeping your oil as fresh as possible.
If a producer has lots of details to give about his products, it usually means that he cares about it. Search for any indications of:
PDO or PGI certifications: to get one of them, the producer must respect different rules like a specific area of origin, a specific production process (one step or all the process), etc.…
a variety of Olive
an area of production
an acidity level as close to 0 as possible (EVOO should be below 0.8% of acidity)
a period of harvest (early Harvest, late harvest)
Demeter Certification (biodynamic agricultural processes guaranteed)
The last point but the not the least, a good olive isn’t cheap! I am sorry, I know it’s not a good news, but you should be paying at least 7-9€ for 500 ml of a good olive oil (in Ireland).
Just think about all the process, the cost of the land, the staff for the harvest, the milling costs, the bottling, the transport to our country, etc... If it lands here under that price, something somewhere down the line wasn’t done properly…
If you are based around Dublin yourself, check out Karen Cryan’s Facebook page, Extra Virgin Olive Oil Dublin Tastings, for news & events.