Best olive oils revealed by Which? The best oil is not always the most expensive
24 June 2011
Napolina extra virgin olive oil has come out on top in a Which? taste test of olive oils from supermarkets and big brands.
But the results proved that the most expensive extra virgin olive oil is not always the best.
Which? experts rated the standard Napolina higher than Napolina Special Selection, despite it being nearly £2 cheaper.
Napolina was the only olive oil to achieve a Best Buy, but Aldi's EVOO Extra Virgin olive oil also impressed the panel, gaining the second-highest score in the test.
What makes a good olive oil
To find out what makes a Best Buy olive oil and how to match olive oil with food, watch our interview with olive oil expert Charles Carey.
A recent rich test of olive oil found some surprising results. With standard Napalina being rated higher by our experts than it's special selection counterpart. Widow and Waiter failing to repeat the best buy awards they received in 2009. We're here at the Oil Merchant in London with Charles Cary. Charles is one of our expert taste testers.
He has 25 years experience of tasting olive oil. So Charles, what makes a good oil all stand out?
Well, first of all, there's the aroma. Then there's the taste, and the taste can be divided into the balance that you get at the front of your mouth and there's pepperiness that you get when you swallow the oil. And then you also need to look for the complexity as well. Now there are different ways tasting oil.
If you're doing it just for fun, then we'll pour some oil into a bowl and dip a little bit of bread into it. And this is what we do in the shop. And then you just stick the bread in it and you taste the bread, and try to get the flavors from the oil like that. Once doing it professionally then you pour the oil in into a dark colored cup because you shouldn't be influenced by the color of the oil.
Give it a swirl around. Put your hand over the top and warm it up a little bit in your hand. Give it a good sniff. And you'll try and get some aromas and analyze those aromas. You might be getting fruitiness or spiciness in the aroma. Then we'll have a taste. And you'll notice I sucked in a bit of that, trying to disperse the oil around my mouth, to try and get those sweet flavors at the front of the mouth, and a little bit of bitterness in the middle of the mouth, and pepperyness, as you saw in the oil.
If you look at the balance between those sweet flavors, bitterness and pepperyness that is a well-balanced oil. As long as the balance is correct between the three different areas of the mouth, then that is really what looking for.
Then you need to think about the complexity. The complexity is, you've got a French oil for example, that is is very light, very delicate can be delicious, but is not a very complex oil. And you can get some Italian oils that are made from more than one variety of olive, that have great complexity, great depth of flavor.
And we'll really fill them out with aromas and flavors.
And I see you have got some socks here to cover some of the oils.
Yeah we'll we don't want to be influenced by the brand of the oil, or indeed where it comes from, because different varieties of olives grow in different countries, and they create oils of different flavors.
So, Charles, what kinds of olive oil would be best for certain dishes?
There are two ways of getting your oil from an olive. By refining, and that gives you a completely clear, tasteless product, which you buy at the chemist for putting in your ears. Or, by just simply pressing. And if you mix some of those together, you get what is sold in the supermarkets as olive oil.
And that's good for high temperature cooking, where you don't really want the flavors of the oil for coming through, and you can use it for making mayonnaise as well.
Then there's extra-virgin olive oil, and there are two distinct types of extra-virgin olive oil. There's the commercial extra-virgin olive oil, the ones you buy in the supermarket like the one we're been tasting.
Then's the one's that I import, which are the estate-bottled ones. Now of course.
I would say you want to dip your bread into the very best estate-bottled olive oils, but they are expensive.
So you find a good commercial extra virgin olive oil, and you can certainly dip bread into that. I use good commercial extra virgin olive oils for cooking with, for frying a piece of fish for example. And I'll use an estate-bottled olive oil for finishing dishes, for pouring over your new potatoes.
Yeah, it's like a Chateau bottled wine. It's expensive. You don't want to use it very regularly or very exuberantly, but get those aromas coming off of a cooked dish like new potatoes, something like that, and it is absolutely wonderful. So in the test, there was one Olive Oil that stood out as a best buy.
Can you tell me what made it stand out from the others?
Let's taste it together. And I'm going to pour some into some of your tasting cups which are very good and practical, they're dark. Have a sniff of that.
Okay. See, I'm getting aromas of green bananas and maybe a bit of passion fruit, but a tropical fruit there I don't know if you can pick up on that. And I'm getting a very nice balance between the flavors getting at the front of my mouth, that sweet slightly almondy flavor and a bit of gentle pepper at the back.
See I would have said this was a very good versatile oil. It's not a taxing oil. It's an oil that lots of people are going to like. It's got enough complexity to finish a dish, or to cook with even. So it's got enough strength to cook with. And I would have said that's a very good, well-balanced, complex olive oil.
Charles, thank you very much for joining us today. We tested olive oils from supermarkets owned brands to big names. To see the full results go to which.co.uk.
About the test
Three olive oil experts rated 12 extra virgin olive oils on aroma, taste, balance and complexity. The oils on test were:
- Aldi EVOO Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Asda Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Bertolli Originale Extra Virgin
- The Co-operative Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Lidl Primadonna Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Marks & Spencer Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Morrisons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Napolina Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Sainsbury’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Tesco Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Waitrose Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The experts also assessed two market-leading premium varieties, Napolina Special Selection and Filippo Berio Special Selection, to see if they were worth the extra cost.
Join the debate over at Which? Conversation and let us know how much you spend on olive oil and whether you feel it's good value for money.
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