Our experts have been hard at work tasting Italian extra virgin olive oils to find the best for summer dining, whether you’re drizzling it over mozzarella and tomatoes or dipping crusty bread into it.
We tasted seven premium Italian extra virgin olive oils. The best was described as ‘bold and fearless – perfect for those that want a more intense oil for adding that extra touch’.
What we tasted
- £10 for 500ml (£2/100ml)
One of the more expensive oils we tasted this time round. Last time we compared Italian extra virgin olive oils M&S came out on top. But the flavour and quality of oils change year-on-year, just like wines. And this oil split our panel of experts down the middle.
Lidl Terra Di Bari Castel Del Monte PDO*
- £3.79 for 500ml (79p/100ml)
The cheapest oil in our selection is cold-pressed exclusively from hand-picked olives grown in the Terra Di Bari (Castel Del Monte) territory of the Puglia region of southern Italy, known for their rich aroma and strong, fruity flavour.
*Listed online as Deluxe Premium Puglian.
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Toscano
- £6.50 for 500ml (£1.30/100ml)
This is one of the cheaper bottles in our line-up. Sainsbury’s describes it as ‘vibrant and fruity… perfect with bruschetta and all kinds of meat and game’.
Filippo Berio 100% Italian
- £8.25 for 750ml (£1.10/ml)
The Filippo Berio extra virgin olive oil is described as having a ‘hints of herbs, artichoke, ripe tomato and leafy notes’ ending with a ‘spicy and slightly bitter finish’.
Tesco Finest Sicilian
- £6.50 for a 500ml bottle (£1.30/100ml)
It’s easy to be tempted by this Tesco Finest olive oil, with its elegant and modern bottle that describes a ‘grassy oil from native early season olives, made by a family mill in Southern Sicily’.
Asda Extra Special Toscano
- £6.97 for 500ml (£1.39/100ml)
This extra virgin olive oil is made from olives harvested from the groves of Tuscany. Asda claims it has ‘a fruity flavour and peppery notes’.
Waitrose 1 Chianti Classico PDO
- £11.99 for 500ml (£2.40/100ml)
As the most expensive oil in our line-up, you’d expect this Waitrose extra virgin olive oil to be top-notch. It stands out from the rest on test in its opaque tin. Waitrose describes it as ‘pungent’ and ‘fruity’, but is it worth the steep price?
Find out how they ranked and which we named the best extra virgin olive oil.
Five things to look for when choosing olive oil
Ever been tempted to pay more for an extra virgin olive oil described as cold-pressed or unfiltered because it sounds more special? Find out why you shouldn’t and what else you need to be aware of when comparing bottles:
1. Production dates can be deceiving
Production dates refer to when the olives are processed into the oil – the olives can be picked months before.
The best before date is a much more reliable indicator of freshness.
2. Cold-pressed or cold-obtained isn’t special
All extra virgin olive oils are picked, processed and filtered cold. They couldn’t be called ‘extra virgin’ if they weren’t. So if you spot ‘cold-pressed’ or ‘cold-obtained’ in the blurb on the bottle, don’t be fooled into thinking it means that oil is something special.
3. Hand-picked is hard to believe
It takes roughly 2.5kg of olives to make a 500ml bottle of oil. So all oils made on large scale will use machinery in the picking process. This could be in the form of mechanical whiskers that shake the branches of olive trees to release the fruit before they are hand-picked from the floor, for example.
4. Filtered and unfiltered doesn’t effect quality
Filtering is an optional, additional step of passing it through cotton gauze to catch sediment – but this is for looks, not for taste.
Unfiltered oil is just as good as filtered, but could have some cloudiness or sediment at the bottom made up of tiny particles of olive fruit.
5. PDO is stricter than PGI
Extra virgin olive oil labels can come with either Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) or Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). PDO means the oil must have been produced, processed and prepared in the claimed geographical provenance using traditional production methods.
PGI means the geographical link only has to relate to one stage of production, processing or preparation – so the olives may have come from another region, for example.
How we tested
We asked each supermarket to suggest a premium Italian extra virgin olive oil.
We chose Italian oils because they’re more common across all supermarkets.
The oils were disguised before being tasted blind, neat and from black shot glasses to hide the colour.
Each expert tasted the oils in a different order, before rating.