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Typicalness of olive oils: an eco-physiological key is needed

The sensorial profile of Italian extra virgin oil has a clear mark, due to the bio-phenolic component present in the olive. The different vegetal features (herbal, tomato, artichoke, balsamic herbs, almond) are affected by the volatile molecule compounds

Prof. Raffaele Sacchi, from the Dipartimento di Scienza degli Alimenti della Facoltà di Agraria of Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, has a clear feeling on the echo-physiological keys of the sensorial typicalness of Italian extra virgin oils.
First of all, he offers a key to interpret the concept of typical agricultural and food product. An extra virgin oil is “typical” “when, besides being tied to a certain territory and raw material, has compounding and sensorial features which can be completely distinguised from similar products.

As Sacchi remarked, this definition includes those Italian extra virgin which are from a single variety of olives, as well as certain production characterized by Denomination of Protected origin, whose composition and pedo-climatic conditions are sufficiently characterized.

The sensorial profile is a typical feature, as a consequence of specific notes, both bitter and hot, “due to the bio-phenolic component of olive”, from which derive “the diverse vegetal features (herbal, tomato, artichoke, balsamic herbs, almond), affected by the volatile molecule compounds whose sensorial impact is originated by the primary and secondary metabolism of the olive”.

Sacchi insists on the “biogenesis of the diverse extra virgin compounds which impact on the sensorial perception (bio-phenols, volatile compounds derived from lypo-oxygenases, terpenes, etc.) , trying to interpret their typicalness in an eco-physiological key”, that is to say, “following the semiochemical meaning of the compounds that olive oil produces in diverse environmental, biotic and abiotic stress, agronomical situations and conditions.

Sacchi is actively pursuing the identification of “the molecular markers of typicalness, which could provide a useful tool for defending and supporting the high quality national productions”, so that the sensorial analysis could be accompanied by instrumental methodologies for the objective measurement of the quality and origin of oils.

Prof. Sacchi says he is still through the early stage of this work, but more is coming soon. “An eco-physiological reading of how and why a certain aroma are biochemically obtained, and how to bring it out by modulating the agronomical choices (such as irrigation and harvest period) and the technological ones (condition of the extraction from the press and preservation), would represent a useful element to strengthen and defend the typicalness and the local value of high quality Italian oils productions”.

by Carlotta Baltini Roversi
07 december 2009, Technical Area > Olive & Oil