How to taste Extra Virgin Olive Oil

How to taste Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Tasting extra virgin olive oil is a unique experience of its kind. With this practice you will be able to recognise a quality olive oil from a poor one.

Through the senses you are able to grasp aromas, colours, shades that shape the imagination.
The fruity scent of extra virgin olive oil might take you back to a special moment during your childhood or to a trip somewhere you tried freshly pressed olive oil for the first time.

The tasting can create this magic and lead you to places that you thought you had forgotten or that you may not know.

So how do you taste 100% Italian olive oil?
Use the olive oil tasting wheel to help you classifying the oils.
Download the tasting wheel here


Firstly, we recommend you to pick at least one of our extra virgin olive oil from the Eat Amore collection. The biological ones sourced from the Park of Madonie in Sicily or the PGI ones (Protected Geographical Indication) from the neighbouring areas of the Etna volcano. Discover the olive oil collection.

Discover the collection 

In the past the acidity of the oil was the main parameter used to determine the quality of the “yellow gold” of Italy. Aside the acidity, it is important to consider other organoleptic parameters such as the ones affecting the aroma, taste and colour of the olive oil. This is why oil tasting remains the most efficient tool to determine its quality.

This practice involves several stages:
  • Olfactory analysis
  • Taste analysis
  • Visual analysis

The tasting begins with the olfactory analysis.

Pour the oil into a coloured glass and warm the container by covering it with the palm of one hand. Apply a circular movement holding the glass in the palm of your other hand.

The rotation should be slow and the temperature must be around 27 degrees Celsius.
Finally, smell the oil and perceive the pleasant sensations. In principle, you are faced with a good oil when you perceive notes of tomato, almond, artichoke and cut grass. Aspire up to three times, not to overwork taste buds.

olive-oil-tasting  example of olive oil tasting glass
Let's move on to the second step of the oil tasting.

Bring the oil to your mouth, but be careful not to swallow it. At the same time, inhale to oxygnate the oil and let it rest on your tongue to stimulate all the taste buds.
You must perceive tactile stimuli as consistency and fluidity.
Other sensations are triggered by the tasting. Do you feel a sweet, bitter or spicy taste? If so, it means that you are tasting a quality extra virgin olive oil.

Conclude this phase by spitting the olive oil in a separate container. You are supposed to sip only a little bit for the purpose of the tasting.


Sight is the last useful sense to complete the oil tasting . The factors you need to consider are clarity, density and colour.
The clarity depends on the filtration processes, the density of the oil varies according to the territorial origin of the olives and the colour must be between yellow and deep green.

The relevant parameters that characterize the extra virgin olive oil when tasted are:

Fruity: this is the range of aromas the oil emanates. There are light, medium and intense fruity oils. The latter are typical of southern Italy.
A great quality example to try? Extra virgin olive oil BIO PGI by Leonardi, full bodied and with a fresh vegetable scent. On the palate a round fruity taste with pleasant sweet notes of almond.

Bitterness: you can feel it when you taste it and must be balanced with the spiciness, never dominating it. A great example is our Extra virgin oil Nocellara del Belice PGI, where the high level of bitterness is perfectly balanced with spiciness and fruitiness.

Spiciness: you perceive it immediately during the tasting. Remember, it doesn't have to affect your throat. At the end of the tasting, your mouth must feel “clean” indicating the balance of the oil tasted.
If you like spiciness, try our Extra virgin oil Tonda Iblea PGI. The taste is very harmonious with presence of sweet and spicy notes, while the bitterness is very light.

 Body: these are the notes of fullness and consistency that the oil leaves on the palate. The best extra virgin olive oil is the one that offers pleasant sensations when swallowed.
Full bodied sensations can be found in our Extra virgin oil Nocellara Etna PGI, with intense aroma of tomatoes combined with notes of artichokes and lemongrass, medium to high fruitiness, quite spicy and a little bitter on the taste and aftertaste.

During the tasting of extra virgin olive oil you can also encounter some defects.
Here is a list of the main ones:

Winy: the oil recalls the tones of vinegar or wine. Why does this happen? Probably the olives weren't pressed within the day therefore the fruits underwent a partial fermentation before the pressing.

Heating: the oil in this case has a scent that recalls old oil and tastes like is heated. This could be due to poor conservation of the olives, possibly piled up without care and begin the fermentation.

Sludge: how do you identify it? The oil is not filtered well and residues are deposited at the bottom which transmit a bad smell.

Rancid: among all the defects of extra virgin olive oil this is perhaps the most unpleasant. It affects products that are going through an oxidative process. How is that possible? Being exposed to air, light and heat for too long.

Metallic: the flavour has a metallic taste due to the metallic tools the olives come into contact during processing.

Earthy: the oil tastes of earth because the olives were not washed well when harvested.

Coarse: an extra virgin that has this defect leaves you with a dirty feeling in the throat.


After the olive oil tasting, it's time for the oil-food pairing.
Like wine, Italian extra virgin olive oil must be paired with dishes that enhance its qualities, taste and aromas. 
Discover our selection of recipes

To combine extra virgin olive oil with food you have to follow some simple rules.
This is key to get the best culinary experience, avoiding potential mistakes.

You might be surprised to know that 8 out of 10 consumers (Italian ones included!) do not know how to combine extra virgin olive oil with food. Many claim to use the same type of product for each dish or believe that a bitter oil is bad. Others believe that extra virgin olive oil is fatter, without understanding that there are no heavy oils and light oils: the average calories of olive oil are 900Kcal per 100gr of product.

Before suggesting some interesting oil-food combinations, remember that extra virgin olive oil is accompanied by similarity of flavours.
What does it mean?
Delicate foods should be combined with delicate oils while savoury dishes should be seasoned with medium or intense fruity oils .

Here are some examples:

Oils with bitter notes go well with strong dishes such as ragù, chicory, grilled red meat.

Spicy oils provide a good touch to legume soups, bruschetta, tomato sauces.

Sweet oils enrich delicate dishes based on fish and white meats. You can taste them on shellfish, salmon and grilled swordfish.

Oils with vegetable scents refresh dishes such as tomato salad, caprese (mozzarella and tomatoes) or a cereal soup.


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