Amaro and Piccante: the taste of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

For almost 10 years, in this blog, we have spilled rivers of ink to celebrate one of the top products of our Umbria: wine.
We also talked about another great product of our land, the extra virgin olive oil, but not enough.

At the very beginning of the new olive oil season 2016, just started in the region, it’s time to make amends and to speak here and now – as we have done several times with wine –  about the taste and the aromas, the so called organoleptic qualities of olive oil, to pay homage to this extraordinary food, that makes us, Umbrians, so proud.

What does “extra virgin” means?
Probably wandering around the shelves of any supermarket abroad, you may have noticed different labels. Well, forget them: they do not exist because the only olive oil that you should buy is the “extra virgin.”
Why? Because extra virgin is the only one that
is produced by a simple pressing of the olives. Other grades like “olive oil” are usually made using chemicals or other processes to extract the oil from the olives, or they are just bad extra virgin – like the one named “virgin”, without the “extra” in front. In addition, extra virgin oil must meet certain laboratory tests and must taste like fresh olives without any negative tastes that professionals refer to as “defects”.

Does extra virgin olive oil always mean high quality oil?
Well, this is a very crucial point. Beyond the label “extra virgin” there’s an entire world of very different quality oils. As you can see from the supermarket shelves, you can find some bottles [in Italy] starting at 3,99 up to 12-16 Eur or more per liter in specialized food shops.
Why such a huge difference? The reasons are different and the origin of the olives plays a very important role: “bottled in Italy” is not enough to be a guarantee of quality.

Learn how to taste EVOO with us!

Our senses are the key: “Amaro” and “Piccante”
Despite the consumers are very often disoriented by tricky information like “first press” [there’s no second press at all in modern extra virgin olive oil extraction!], Mother Nature gave us, all of us, a nose and a mouth.
The aroma and the taste of an extra virgin olive oil can tell all the important information about its quality to the consumer.
In a high level EVOO from Umbria, you may immediately notice the smell of fresh-cut grass, green olive fruit, vegetable notes like fresh artichoke.
The two sensations that are prevalent in a high quality oil are basically two. In Italian we describe it as amaro and piccante. While the second, piccante, refers to a peppery sensation, detected in the throat, the first word amaro can be sometimes “lost in translation”. Literally amaro means bitter and maybe in English this adjective could be perceived as negative, while referring to an olive oil, it is very positive. When we say bitter, we talk about a very pleasant bitterness that is associated more to a very dry and clean sensation of a fresh, fruity olive on our palate, very persistent.

Is high quality extra virgin olive oil good for our health? Why?
Yes, it definitely is. Differently from other oils like corn or sunflower, olive oil is the only one that comes from a fresh fruit.

Here the 5 reasons to have it every day:

1. It contains polyphenols, antioxidants that slow the aging of cells down
2. It helps to produce good cholesterol (HDL), which helps to keep the arteries clean
3. It is the only oil that is 100% digestible, supporting the digestive activity and renal function
4. It is a natural anti-inflammatory
5. Used every day,  it has anti-cancer properties

Interested in learning more? Join us in Umbria!

Our extra virgin olive oil tours run all year round not only during the period of the new oil (mid October – beginning of December).
The olive oil farms and mills we cooperate with offer tasting all year round and visits to the olive groves to learn all the secrets of this great product directly from the producers in person.
Thanks to special stainless steel tanks that preserve the oil from the natural oxidation process, you’ll have always the opportunity to taste the amaro and piccante, together with the fresh cut grass and artichokes aroma. It’s not a promise, it’s a guarantee!



Posted in FOOD and WINE, TIPS.