You may be used to olive oil that your grandmother served, the kind that stays under the cupboard and comes in tin cans, too often rancid and adulterated. The oils of IL Fiorello are single varietal, early harvest for good pungency and certified extra virgin. At the New York International competition our oils were awarded Gold Medals and we were named as one of the world’s best olive oil producers
Individual varietal oils have distinctive flavors and are paired with foods that complement each flavor. Many Americans are not used to the distinct flavors of excellent olive oil and may not understand how to use freshly milled 100% olive oil with a robust taste and full flavor. At IL Fiorello we teach guests how to taste oil, how to use oil, and what extra virgin olive oil really tastes like.
As an olive miller and grower there are many factors to consider when producing oils:
Variety of Olive. There are many varieties of olives. We are growing eight varieties, each with its own distinctive flavor. Before we planted a tree we tasted many oils, both in the US and in Europe, and then made a decision which variety to plant. Each olive has a unique taste and many mature at different times. During harvest time we are always out in the grove making decisions about when to harvest and which varietal to harvest. Our varieties are Frantoio, Leccino, Pendolino, Mission, Taggiasca, Moraiolo, Aglandau and Bouteillan.
Time of Harvest. The general rule is to harvest early for robust oil and harvest later for a more mellow oil. Early harvest tends to produce oils that last longer and a later harvest tends to make oils that are mellower but lose their flavor profile more quickly. But, this is also very varietal dependent. Our olives are hand harvested and are milled within 2-4 hours of being picked. Some olives can rest after harvest for 12-24 hours. No longer should you harvest during the week and then bring the olives to the mill on the weekend.
Method of Milling. We mill, we do not press. Centrifuges have replaced presses. Today there is no such thing as “first cold press”, which you will still find on labels. We don’t press olives; we mill olives, 14 hours a day during harvest. Heat is necessary to extract the oil. We use gentle heat very carefully to help extract oil, without damaging the quality. The term “first cold press” is from long ago and far away and not relevant to olive oil milling today. We use Pieralisi designed centrifuges with very little oxygen exposure. The efficiency of the centrifuges allows for better extraction of the oil from the olives.
Method of Storage. After milling, perfect storage is critical to olive oil. The oils are stored at a temperature of 62°F covered with an inert gas and left quiet. Decanting occurs after 2-3 months.
Olio Nuovo and Extra Virgin Oil. Olio Nuovo is new oil, oil that has just been milled, fresh robust and very intense. This is special oil but it only lasts a few weeks as this robust oil. This is our favorite oil. After milling in November and December, we allow the oil to rest. The sediment settles and then we decant the oil in January and February. Decanting prevents the defect of “winey”, as the sediment may ferment and taint the oil.
EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil certification. Certification from the COOC (California Olive Oil Council) and UC Davis Olive Center, ensures that you purchase only olive oil, no additives, no adulteration, and the oil meets specific International and California standards.
Olive oil is one of the few foods that must pass both a chemistry test and a taste test.
The chemistry panel tests for components that indicate the oil is fresh and has no decomposition before milling, and it is only olive oil. Tests for polyphenols and DAGS indicate oxidation or degradation of the oil.
The taste test involves a master taste panel using organoleptic methods to detect flaws in the oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil can only contain olive oil. So labels saying “100% EVOO” or “Pure EVOO” are redundant and confusing. Co-milled flavored oils cannot be extra virgin by law. This is a buyer beware or buyer be aware business.
Tasting Olive Oil. Each oil must be balanced with the taste of olive fruit, bitterness, and pungency. If the oil is not in balance it may not be certified extra virgin. There are many tasting evaluation scorings cards, but fruitiness and balance are extremely important. You also cannot discuss olive oil without talking about the food. In our tasting room we discuss the balance of oils, the unique characteristics, and suggestions as to the use of the individual oils. Color of the oil is irrelevant to the taste profile.
Presentation to guests. Take the opportunity to explain what variety of oil they are tasting. The taste diversity of oils is similar to the taste diversity of wines. This discussion gives everyone another opportunity to interact with guests. When preparing food with oils, the addition of acidity while using oils may be equally important in the overall flavor profile. Use the balance of spice, sweetness, acidity and richness (Mina 2006) with the addition of bitterness and pungency to make a balanced presentation.