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Is an extra virgin olive oil labelled as organic good on the palate?

The oleologist Marcello Scoccia surely had no hesitations in expressing his views: “Once it may have been possible to find differeces at organoleptic levels, with respect to conventional olive oil. No longer today”

Let us disprove the old, habitual common places so difficult to cancel and wich are often looked on with prejuce whether involuntarily or not and start with a question of primary importance that revolves around a crucial question which we must promptly answer so as to avoid misunderstandings: “Are olive oils carrying the ‘organic’ label really good?”

The question must not be underestimated. Generally an oil that is considered “clean” and free from pesticides or other contaminant residues, is also considered of inferior quality. Almost as is the product’s aspect of “cleanliness” in some way goes to the determent of the final quality of olive oil, especially on the organoleptic lelev, even before that of the relative chemical physical referral parameters.

Is this really so? This is a question to ask those who possess the expertise to discuss the subject and express a realistic opinion. One of these is Marcello Scoccia, a professional taster, vice-president of Onaoo, the Organization of national olive oil tasters and quality manager of some Sos Cuetara Iberian group (Carapelli, Olio Sasso, Bertolli).

Marcello Scoccia

With Marcello Scoccia, therefore, I went directly to the point: after numerous oil tasting sessions – perhaps thousands – accomulated during years and years of his profession, must have formed a clear idea and well defined ideas.

The profession of quality selector, besides that Blends creator, allowed him to express a clear opinion of organic extra virgin olive oil.
So I said: “If I compared the tasting sessions of these last years with those of twenty years ago, I found substantial differences at a qualitative level. The improvement has been notable”, he added.

“Once , a large portion of those productions presented different negative attributes. Today there is much more sensibility on the front of all operators: personally I believe a lot in this type of product; and even if consumptions have not registered the increase expected I believe that in the future the national and the foreign markets will target mostly organic productions”-

Marcello Scoccia surely had no hesitations in expressing his views. However the question had to be cleared in a more concise way. So I insisted: with respect to conventional olive oils and those from integrated agriculture, wath are the substantial differences regarding their sensorial profile? Or is there just the certainty of finding oneself facing a product simply guaranteed to be free from contaminants and nothing else, or is there any difference?

He had no doubts and affirmed it without any difficulty: “Once it may have been possible to find differeces at organoleptic levels, with respect to conventional olive oil. No longer today. Whoever produces organic extra virgin olive oil, pays freat attention to health aspects, other than to the absence of contaminans. They do not limit themselves to this, but try to give a personal flavour to their own product, paying maximum attention to all those agronomical and tecnological best pratices necessary to obtain a high organoleptic quality olive oil”.

Well, this was a relief. Prejudices are really based on preconceptions and they have to be considered as such: it is only a question of empty words – of bad impressions, in various cases – not supported by facts- The concept of good and bad oil goes beyond farming methods. A good olive grower is so, independently from his production method. Compared to good and equal quality olive oils the difference lies in that element of ‘cleanliness’ mentioned at the beginning. This is not a trivial detail.

by Luigi Caricato
03 august 2009, Technical Area > Olive & Oil