I live in California’s central valley, surrounded by vineyards and wineries. But for most of the time I’ve lived here, I’ve been pregnant or a new mom. Oh wait, that’s the ENTIRE time I’ve lived here, since I got pregnant just as we moved to California, and again when my baby was almost a year old. People around me are always going to wine tasting parties and tours, and I haven’t been to even one. Enter: the olive oil tasting party. I never would have thought of this until Carapelli sent me their tasting kit, but it’s really a fantastic idea for food-lovers, and it can be completely inclusive since the preggos (like half my friends at the moment) won’t have to abstain.
Since I just received my tasting kit on Friday, I didn’t have time to organize an actual event, so I did this one by myself.
The kit came with three different Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oils, from right outside of Florence, Italy:
- Premium 100% Italian – made solely from the first cold pressing of the finest 100% Italian olives
with an intense, robust flavor and aroma
- Il Numerato – a supremely smooth and low acidity oil that is a result of a delicate cold pressing
- Organic – Obtained only from organically grown olives and produced according to organic farming
standards; certified USDA organic
Also included were three dipping dishes, which I just used to see the color of the oils. I thought they might be different colors (they say color doesn’t really matter when you’re tasting though, which is why the tasting glass is blue) but they all looked about the same.
The included tasting glass fits in the palm of your hand, so that your body temperature can slightly warm the oil as you swirl it before tasting. As I mentioned before, the blue color is also strategic, so you’re not distracted by the color of the oil as you taste it.
For an actual party, it would be fun if everyone brought their own bottle of olive oil, and you could make little identical fabric bags with lettered tags on each one, then hide each bottle in a bag so that you can’t see the label or bottle. It would be a blind tasting and everyone would just know each oil as “Oil A” or “Oil D” until they were revealed at the end.
Make sure to have plenty of apple slices on hand, to cleanse the palate before beginning and between each oil. You shouldn’t eat a big meal beforehand either. Can you imagine burping garlicky breath as you’re trying to taste? It would definitely mask the nuances.
I made an olive oil tasting record, which I’m providing for free download also, so you can have your own olive oil tasting parties (you’re welcome!) and printed it out so that I could record my impressions.
I have to admit, I’m much more familiar with wine tastings (even if I haven’t been to one in a couple of years) and I have a little more education about wine too. I notice when there is a chocolate note or when a wine is a bit more tanniny or more smooth. I can taste the difference between oak and cedar. I’m a brand new baby when it comes to olive oil tastings, and had no tutor to guide me, so I just did my best to notice what I could.
The process is similar to wine tasting.
- Swirl: First you swirl the oil in the glass, so that the aroma can start to release.
- Sniff/Smell: Then you take a deep whiff of the oil you’re tasting, and note its intensity, fruitiness, grassiness, etc. The scent can also tell you if your oil is “fusty” (starting to ferment – eek!) or “musty” (made from olives that were starting to mold – ewww) which is a sure sign that it’ll be no good. A rancid smell is of course a dealbreaker too.
- Slurp: Take a good amount of the oil into your mouth and hold it on your tongue for a few seconds, then suck some air through your teeth so the oil spreads throughout your mouth and over your whole tongue. This will let you taste it with every kind of taste bud and also through your olfactory sense. This is where you’ll notice more nuances of each one. Some will have notes of artichoke or lemon, others will seem grassy or hay-like, some will be nutty, and still others perfumed or almost floral. I checked off the boxes on my chart I jumped to right away, without thinking too hard, and jotted down some ideas for how I’d like to use the oil. I’ve found at wine tastings, it’s always a good idea to make any notes you’re thinking of right away before you mix up the different samples and get confused or forget.
- Swallow: There shouldn’t be any greasiness or aftertaste when you swallow the olive oil, but many will have a peppery, spicy, or even stinging effect in the back of your throat. You might even cough a bit! This is just the oil’s way of interacting with the throat and isn’t seen as a negative. It’s up to you to decide how you use the oil to take advantage of the “spice” or “pepper.”
I’m not going to share with you my complete notes (unless you can read them in this picture!) but I found the Organic and Numerato Carapelli oils to be very similar, mild, sweet, and smooth (Numerato seemed smoother to me). I thought they would both be great for salad dressings or marinades, or other basic applications.
The Premium Italian Olive Oil was definitely the boldest, and it’s the only one that really gave me a strong effect upon swallowing it. It has a really nice flavor that I thought seemed green or grassy, mixed with sweetness, with a spicy end-flavor. This seems to me like the perfect oil for dipping breads or for bruschetta or making tapenade, anywhere you’d be able to really have the oil contribute in a strong way.
Are you ready to host your own Olive Oil tasting party? Don’t forget! You’ll need:
- Olive Oils to taste (you can ask guests to bring some for variety).
You’ll find a $1.00 OFF coupon at www.CarapelliUSA.com
- Sliced apples to cleanse everyone’s palates
- Stemless tasting glasses, in cobalt blue if possible.
- Olive Oil Tasting Records for each guest
- Pens for everyone
- Good music
- Food to enjoy after the tasting is complete, like bruschetta, tapenades, good bread, vegetables roasted or grilled with olive oils, roasted garlic, etc.
- Great friends