I have been a participant in olive oil tastings, but never conducted one myself. The folks that do PR for Whole Foods Stores asked if I would like to do an olive oil tasting of Whole Foods brand of olive oils. I thought sure, why not, it sounds like fun. Whole Foods provided me with five Whole Foods olive oils, each olive oil from a different country. I did a little research on the Web and was surprised how similar an olive oil judging is to a wine tasting. Appearance, aroma, and taste are evaluated. Almost all olive oil tasting that is serious involves judging the olive oil in cups or small glasses. The tasters judge the olive oil by looking, sniffing, and tasting. I found several good websites on how to taste and judge olive oil. Try this one if you would like to know more about the proper way to taste olive oil: The Olive Oil Source.
My Whole Foods Olive Oil Tasting
We were on our way for a dinner date at a local restaurant, so I invited the group over to our house before to do this olive oil tasting. I threw in some wine and, lo and behold, what a great time! I spotted a few neighbors walking by and also invited them in and we had 14 of us tasting the five different Whole Foods Olive Oil.
I ditched the idea of tasting the olive oils the way the Olive Oil Source recommends. I knew that the crowd did want to be so serious, so I cut up some sourdough French bread. I placed the five dishes with olive oil on a tray and labeled them one through five. I asked each to tell me their favorite. I was quite surprised that most guests took multiple samples before deciding their favorite. Below is the Whole Foods description of the five olive oils.
- Greece – Koroneiki olives – complex aroma of olives and herbs, notably fruity taste and peppery finish. Best enjoyed in its raw state or as finishing oil.
- Portugal – Arbequina olives – Balanced, fruity, yet smooth with notes of fresh almonds. Best used raw in order to preserve delicate properties.
- Seville (Spain) – Hojiblanca olives – slightly sweet with smooth finish and subtle almond aftertaste. Wonderfully flavorful with complex aroma, ideal for baking and pan-sautéing.
- Chile – multiple olive varietals – Chile is a relatively new but ideal climate for olive cultivation where varietals such as Arbequina, Frantoio, Arebusana, Piqual and Lecino thrive. This full-bodied oil is balanced, spicy and bitter, with notes of green tomatoes and fresh vegetables, making it excellent for dipping.
- Sicily (Italy) – Nocellara, Biancolila and Cerasuola olives – intense flavor and aroma, medium fruity with notes of tomato leaves and green apple. Best drizzled over bruschetta, grilled fish or vegetables.
The most #1 votes went to two olive oils, Sicily and Seville. The Sicily olive oil was more pungent. The Spanish olive oil was smooth and mild. The cost of each olive oil is $13.99 and is one liter in size. At the Whole Foods store in San Mateo, they have a fairly large collection of olive oils and many more expansive then the Whole Foods label.
I wanted to do one more taste test before posting this article. The following day Janelle and I compared our go-to olive oil to the two top Whole Food olive oils. We normally buy Costco’s Kirkland Signature Extra Virgin olive oil, first cold press and organic. It comes in a two-liter size and sells for about $17. It is a blend of olive from Portugal, Spain, and Italy. We sampled the olive oils. Janelle and I totally disagreed. She chose the Kirkland over both the Whole Foods, and I did the opposite. One factor, Janelle blind tasted and I did not.
The bottom line on this olive oil tasting, we realize we are novices but would like to further our understanding of one of nature’s great food ingredients. Olive oil is tasty and healthy. Just like wine!