Greek Olive Oil, OLIVE OIL GRADES

OLIVE OIL GRADES

GRADES OF OLIVE OIL AND LABELS. IS IT THE SAME?.

I want to clarify here the confusion I very often find all around internet. One thing is the olive oil grades and another is the commercial names used. 

To make the picture clear I include a reference of all here below for the convenience of the readers.
If you have any question or if you see I haven’t included something please feel free to contact me via email.
 

COMMERCIAL GRADES  

The grades of oil extracted from the olive fruit are classified on the following basic categories. You have to keep in mind that anything bellow extra virgin olive oil is adulterated one way or another, with chemicals or lower quality oils or oils with defects. 

  • Virgin means the oil was produced by the use of mechanical means only, with no chemical treatment. The term virgin oil with reference to production method includes all grades of virgin olive oil, including Extra virginVirginOrdinary virgin and Lampante virgin olive oil products, depending on quality (see below). 
  • Lampante virgin oil is olive oil extracted by virgin (mechanical) methods but not suitable for human consumption without further refining; “lampante” is the attributive form of “lampa”, the Italian word for “lamp”, referring to the earlier use of such oil in oil lamps. Lampante virgin oil can be used for industrial purposes, or refined (see below) to make it edible.  
  • Refined olive oil is the olive oil obtained from any grade of virgin olive oil by refining methods which do not lead to alterations in the initial glyceridic structure. The refining process removes color, odor and flavor from the olive oil, and leaves behind a very pure form of olive oil that is tasteless, colorless and odorless and extremely low in free fatty acids. Olive oils sold as the grades Extra virgin olive oil and Virgin olive oil therefore cannot contain any refined oil.  
  • Crude olive pomace oil is the oil obtained by treating olive pomace (the leftover paste after the pressing of olives for virgin olive oils) with solvents or other physical treatments, to the exclusion of oils obtained by re-esterification processes and of any mixture with oils of other kinds. It is then further refined into Refined olive pomace oil and once re-blended with virgin olive oils for taste, is then known as Olive pomace oil.  

MARKETING OLIVE OIL TYPES/NAMES EXPLAINED 

Extra virgin olive oil
It is the best quality olive oil with excellent color, various aromas and flavors uplifting your senses and with very low acidity.  It is made solely from olive fruit, mechanically extracted, cold-pressed under specific conditions in order to maintain the aromas and healthy attributes of the olives. It has not undergone any treatment other than washing, separation (decantation and/or centrifugation) and simple filtration which is very important for the quality and longevity of the EVOO. 

For olive oil to be graded as Extra Virgin olive oil it is imperative that 5 chemical factors and 4 sensory factors must be met at specific ranges. Additionally, the extraction must be strictly mechanical. I cant stretch enough the fact that nothing is added . It is just the juice of the olive, fresh and ready to use. 

Early harvest extra virgin olive oil:
The Early Harvest Olive Oil is the first olive oil. It is premature and is produced in limited quantities. In mid to late October, depending on weather conditions in the area and the year, the most fresh and strong fruit, green, not wrinkled, nor knocked to fall from the tree, are gathered to give the juice, which is immediately analyzed to confirm the qualitative characteristics. This does not mean that all of the first oil is Early Harvest Olive Oil. The oil from the first, unripe fruit, the first crop is separated and indeed, according to the International Olive Council, the main organoleptic evaluation criteria focus on these three main features: fruity, bitter and spicy. The remarkable organoleptic characteristics as well as the exceptional nutritional attributes are what make this olive oil most healthy. Under correct care this EVOO gives us a strong olive oil flavor with intense aromas. 

Virgin olive oil  

It differs from extra virgin, not only in the degree of acidity, but also the taste. Most of the time it has slight defects in aroma or flavor and has to meet lower chemical standards, so it is less expensive. 

Refined olive oil & blends. If virgin olive oil does not qualify for the virgin designation as defined by its acidity level and the other 9 factors (we will analyze those in another article), the oil is refined to remove undesirable odors and flavors. It is refined using charcoal and other chemical and physical filters, methods which do not alter the glyceridic structure. 

The result is a bland, almost colorless oil that is blended with a small amount of virgin olive oil to give it some olive character.  Refined olive oil blends found in the market are: 

“Pure olive oil” (also simply called “olive oil” or “classic olive oil”): This is usually a blend of refined olive oil with less than 10% virgin olive oil for the taste. It tends to have little flavor and is best used for sautéing rather than for salads. 

“Extra-light olive oil”: This is a refined olive oil blend with a lower percentage of virgin olive oil, making it paler in color, with very little olive flavor. It does not mean that the olive oil is lower in fat or calories. Labels are now supposed to read “extra light (in flavor)” because of confusion over the calorie content. 

Regular olive oil:
“Regular olive oil” or “pure olive oil”, or plainly called “olive oil” is usually a blend of refined olive oil with less than 10% virgin olive oil. It tends to have little flavor. 

Pomace olive oil: 

Once the typical, mechanized extraction of olive oil from the olive fruit is complete, some 5 to 8 percent of the oil still remains in the leftover olive pulp or “pomace.” Although the pomace oil that is extracted is still technically oil that comes from olives, this is done via the use of chemical solvents, and therefore should never be termed, directly or indirectly, as “olive oil.” 

The amount of oil contained in the leftover pomace, which consists of the solid remains of the olive including skins, pulp, seeds, and stems, is so minimal that it cannot be extracted by pressing, but only through the combined use of chemical solvents (like Hexane) and extremely high heat. 

This very process, the same high heat technique used in producing canola, sunflower, and other vegetable oils, is why unregulated olive pomace oil sometimes contain harmful components known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) like benzopyrene, which research has shown to be highly carcinogenic and mutagenic. Benzopyrenes result from the incomplete combustion of the fats present in the olives. When fats are exposed to levels of high heat, like in the pomace oil extraction processes where there is no complete combustion and no smoke is produced, benzopyrenes are likely to be produced as a result. 

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