Olive Oil Buying Guide

Olive Oil Buyers Guide

Buying olive oil is becoming more and more complicated. With articles in the newspapers about famous brands passing off lower quality oil for Extra Virgin, and the sheer volume of different terms used to market olive oil, which terms are the ones that mean anything, and what should you look for?

What does "Extra Virgin" mean for olive oil?

Probably the most well-known term, Extra Virgin olive oil means that it was less than 24 hours between the olives being picked and them being pressed resulting in an oil of less than 0.8% acidity. To be Extra Virgin the oil must also have been extracted from the olives on its first pressing, without the use of heat or chemicals.

Unfortunately, Extra Virgin doesn’t necessarily indicate that the oil is good quality or that it has a delicious flavour. In fact there are plenty of extra virgin olive oils on the market that are far from delicious, so you’ll need to look a little deeper.

All of the olive oil we sell is Extra Virgin. Infused oils are not allowed to be labelled extra virgin because they have had other ingredients added to the olives, but ours are made using Extra Virgin olive oil, which you can see on the ingredients list.

What does "solely by mechanical means" mean on olive oil labels?

Extra Virgin Olive Oil produced and sold within the EU should always have written on the label that it is "superior category Olive Oil obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical means".

Although this doesn’t sound particularly delicious, this shows you that the olive oil has been extracted from the olives without heat or chemicals. You should always look for this sentence on your olive oil, or it may not be extra virgin. Be aware that the labelling requirements for ‘Virgin’ olive oil is the same sentence but without the ‘superior category’.

You will find this sentence on every bottle of The Gift Of Oil’s olive oil!

What does it mean when an olive oil is "Cold Pressed"?

When your olive oil is labelled ‘Extra Virgin’ it should have been cold pressed, as this means the process of extracting the oil from the olives has been carried out without adding any heat. Cold pressed oil retains the nutritional value of the olives, along with preserving the olives subtle flavours and aromas. Again, be aware that just because the olives are cold pressed, this does not guarantee quality or flavour. After all, the olives have to be delicious to begin with to create oil with the taste you deserve!

All of The Gift of Oil’s olive oils are cold pressed- the oil is extracted from the olives using the latest technology which ensures no heat is created during the process.

What does "First Pressing" mean on olive oil?

As with cold pressed, when an olive oil is labelled as ‘Extra Virgin’ it should be taken from the first pressing of the olives, as this is what ‘Virgin’ refers to. However, some producers will reiterate this on their labels, so it is important to understand what this means.

All of our olive oils are produced from the first pressing of the olives.

Look for a Harvest Date

Good quality olive oil will give a date of when the oil was harvested. In Europe the harvest is between October and December, depending on the region the olives were grown and the weather conditions that year. Choose olive oil from the most recent harvest for it to be at its best.

The Gift of Oil receive new season olive oils every year, and discount last seasons oils, so if you are paying full price you are always paying for the freshest oil available!

How long does olive oil last once opened?

Olive oil does not improve with age. Try to use bottles within 18-24 months of the Harvest Date. When using for dipping and dressings where flavour is key, the fresher the better. Once the oil is approaching its best before date you don’t have to throw it away- just use it for cooking or add to sauces where the flavour is not as important.

Look for olive oil that is from a 'Single Estate' or 'Estate Nurtured'

When olives are grown, harvested, pressed and bottled by one farm or estate this makes the olive oil ‘single estate’ or ‘estate nurtured’. This means that estate has complete control over the quality of the olives used and the process used to press them. It also suggests a smaller scale operation which is usually a sign of quality. Look for the name of the estate on the bottle for additional reassurance.

The Gift of Oil only partner with families who produce single estate olive oils so that we can guarantee our customers the premium quality we are known for. Our Sicilian and Infused Olive Oils are crafted by the Di Lorenzo family who own the beautiful Disisa Estate in Sicily, and our Alentejan Oil is from the Pedro family who own the Herdade dos Cordeiros estate in The Alentejo region of Southern Portugal.

Look for the region the oil was produced in, not just the country

Look for the name of the region rather than the name of the country the olive oil was made. Just like with wine, if the bottle simply says ‘Italian’ it is probably not going to be very good, and you shouldn’t be paying a premium for it. Furthermore, if it says Italian it only means it was bottled in Italy, not that the olives were grown in Italy or that the oil was extracted there.

We have our Sicilian premium and infused olive oils from an estate in the North-West of Sicily, and our Alentejan olive oil from an estate in the Alentejo region of Portugal.

Look for the type of olives used

The label should list the types of olives used to create the olive oil. Different olives create different tasting olive oil, just as different grapes do with wine. If the types of olives are not listed it is more than likely that a multitude of different olives mass produced by different farms will have been used, meaning less control over the quality of the olives, and thus, almost certainly, a lesser quality oil.

Our Early Harvest Olive Oil is a single varietal olive oil made from Cerasuola olives

Our Sicilian Olive Oil is a blend of Cerasuola and Nocellara del Belice olives

Our Alentejan Olive Oil is a single varietal olive oil made from Cobrancosa olives

Buy olive oil in dark bottles or tins

Only buy olive oil that is in a dark glass bottle or a tin. Olive Oil that is sold in a clear bottle is likely to be poor quality because olive oil deteriorates more quickly when it is exposed to light.

All of our olive oils are sold in dark green bottles or tins for this reason!

What is “Early Harvest” Olive Oil?

Although not necessarily better, Early Harvest Olive Oil is different and is worth mentioning. Olives are harvested in early October when they are considered to be at their best in flavour, rather than at their largest. Thus the yield is smaller which makes the oil more expensive to produce, and therefore may cost more. Early Harvest oil tends to be stronger and more bitter in flavour, and greener in colour. They are also said to be higher in antioxidants, chlorophyll and polyphenols which are linked to incredible health benefits.

Our delicious Early Harvest Sicilian olive oil is a single varietal olive oil made from Cerasuola olives that is harvested in early October and delivered to us in November.

What are Infused Olive Oils?

Infused olive oils are olive oils that have been given the flavour of other ingredients, like Lemon or Basil. Some are much better than others!

The Gift of Oil’s infused oils are made using Extra Virgin olive oil and are infused with fresh ingredients that have just been picked from Maria Paola’s herb gardens and orchards.

How to find a premium quality Infused Olive Oil

Infused oils are not allowed to be marked as ‘extra virgin’ on the front label as the oil can no longer be classified as extra virgin once it has had other ingredients added to it. However, if the oil used to create the infusion is extra virgin, you are allowed to list it in the ingredients.

You should always look at the ingredients list when buying infused oils, as there is a huge difference between the flavour of oils that are made with natural, freshly picked ingredients and the ones that are made with cheaper, synthetic flavourings. So when buying infused oil, make sure you look at the ingredients list to get an idea of the quality!

All of The Gift of Oil’s infused oils are completely natural, and are made from ingredients that are grown and handpicked from Maria Paola’s herb gardens and orchards on the Disisa Estate.

How much should I pay for good quality olive oil?

As with many things, with olive oil you will get what you pay for. For small, family producers to cultivate and create delicious and natural olive oil and infused olive oil takes a lot of time and effort, and this must be reflected in the price.

At The Gift of Oil we aim to ensure that the families we work with are getting a fair price for their hand crafted, artisanal products, and also that our customers are being fairly charged for the quality of products they receive. A quote from one of our customers:

"Initially I thought it was SO expensive and now I think it's value for money as once you've had it, no other compares. I can't recommend these products enough."
Margeret Small

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