Olive oil is the juice obtained by pressing the fruit of the olive tree (Olea europaea). It is the symbol of the Mediterranean. It can be obtained by mechanical processes (pressing the olives) or other physical processes (washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration), in controlled thermal conditions.
This natural product is one of the symbols of our country’s gastronomic tradition, as well as an authentic icon of the Mediterranean diet. In this article we will review all the types of olive oil recognized by the European Community, focusing on the distinctive characteristics of each one.
VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
This type of oil is given by pressing the olives using exclusively mechanical processes, in conditions that prevent any type of alteration. This means that to be defined as such it must not undergo any treatment, in addition to washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration.
In turn, virgin olive oils are classified according to their free acidity: it is a value expressed as a percentage of oleic acid, the type of fatty acid prevalent in olive oil. These acids are normally present in the triglycerides that make up the fats forming a chain, but, due to various factors, they can leave and remain free in the fat.
The increase in free acidity (which can occur both in the olive and in the oil) determines a series of modifications that lead to the formation of components, causing a deterioration of the organoleptic characteristics of the oil.
Here is the product classification of virgin olive oils:
- EXTRAVIRGIN OLIVE OIL
It is the virgin olive oil with superior organoleptic characteristics, free from defects, with free acidity, expressed in oleic acid, which does not exceed 0.8 grams per 100 g (≤ 0.8%).
- VIRGIN OLIVE OIL
It is a virgin olive oil characterized by a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, which does not exceed 2 grams per 100 g (≤ 2%).
- LAMPANTE OLIVE OIL
Virgin olive oil not for retail sale, characterized by organoleptic defects and high free acidity which, expressed in oleic acid, is greater than 2 grams per 100 g (> 2.0%).
It is the oil obtained from the refining of virgin olive oil. This industrial process reduces the acidity of the oil and eliminates oxidized substances. Its free acid content, expressed as oleic acid, does not exceed the value of 0.3 grams per 100 g.
After refining, the olive oil is presented to the taste as a fat free of defects; before being packaged it must be mixed in a calibrated way with an extra virgin oil or a virgin olive oil, which gives it colour and flavour.
It is a compound of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils. Specifically, it is obtained by blending refined olive oil with virgin or extra virgin olive oil, with a free acidity content, expressed in oleic acid, not exceeding 1 gram per 100 g.
The law does not indicate the minimum percentage of virgin or extra virgin oil to be added to the refined: normally, the average cut is in the order of 5-8%, but the best producers prefer to go up to 30%, using only extra virgin oils that make their “olive oil” even more palatable and nutritionally perfect.
CRUDE POMAMA OLIVE OIL
Different from olive oil is olive pomace oil which is obtained from the solid residues of the pressing of the olives, in particular from the skins, from the pulp and from the stones, called pomace, in which a certain quantity of oil is still contained, variable depending on the extraction method.
This oil is extracted with a solvent, normally hexane, with the same technology applied for the production of seed oils. The solvent is then separated from the oil by distillation.
REFINED POMAMA OLIVE OIL
Refined pomace olive oil is obtained from the refining process of crude pomace olive oil, which reduces the acidity of the oil and eliminates oxidized substances.
OLIVE POMACE OIL
Oil obtained from the blend of refined pomace olive oil and virgin olive oil.