Host Your Own EVOO Tasting
Wine Tasting Parties are so 2004…
Of course I am kidding. A little. But it is likely that you have been to dozens of Wine Tasting events and even more likely that you have never ever ever been to an Olive Oil Tasting Party. So, let this be the opportunity for you to learn more about Extra Virgin Olive Oil as well as introduce your friends to the wonders of “liquid gold” by hosting your own EVOO Tasting.
You can make your tasting as casual or as formal as you like. From a simple tasting to an oil and food pairing sit-down dinner. Hosting a tasting party is absolutely the best way for you to discover what you like, it is great fun with friends and can be put together with little fuss and within a reasonable budget.
Selecting the appropriate oils is key to understanding the dramatic differences that each ones possesses. You will need at least 3 different oils for your tasting. You can add more of course, but I would say that 6 or 7 is the maximum – after which it just gets confusing for everyone!
You will need to decide whether to do a vertical tasting of 3 different oils with the same intensity from different regions OR a horizontal tasting with oils of varying intensity. For your first tasting, I suggest going with oils with ranging fruitiness/intensity: ie. one delicate, one medium and one robust oil. In any case, make sure that your Extra Virgin is coming from a reputable merchant and is from the current year’s harvest with the expiration date clearly marked.
When inviting your guests make sure to remind them no smoking, coffee or chewing gum within 30 minutes (longer is better!) of the tasting. These vices interfere with your nose’s ability to perceive the different aromas. Also avoid perfumes and scented candles if possible.
Hereʼs what you will need:
- At least 3 different olive oils with ranging fruitiness/intensity. From the Olive Oil Merchant portfolio you could try:
Delicate – De Carlo Arcamone DOP
Medium – Frantoio Franci’s Le Trebbiane
Robust – Tenuta Rasciatano Red Label Organic
Try adding your standard supermarket brand olive oil to the mix to have a side-by-side comparison of artisan vs. commercialized.
- Cups – if you would like the tasters to be blind to the influence of the olive oil colour, ceramic cups is the ideal. Professional tasters use dark blue ceramic cups for this purpose. However, any clear glass cup would be just fine. Wine glasses work too. If your guests are numerous and your will to clean dishes is limited, small plastic cups will also do.
- Sliced white baguette – for some people the idea of sampling oil directly is difficult to swallow (pun intended!) so bread in this case can be used for dipping. The importance here is that the bread does not overpower the flavour of the oil… so as plain as possible. No nuts, seeds, olives etc.
- Sliced Green Apple – for cleansing the palate in between oils.
- Glasses for Water – see above.
- Notepaper and pencils – create a tasting card where your guests can record their impressions.
- Paperbag or wrapping paper (optional) – to cover up the olive oil bottles if you don’t want your guests to be influenced by the labeling
As the Tasting Party host, you will be responsible for leading your guests through the tasting steps. The two most important things to remember are 1) each person can and should have their own preferences and impressions and 2) the objective is to have fun!
Ready, Set, Start Tasting:
- Cleanse your palate by eating a slice of apple.
- If you are doing a tasting with oils of varying degrees of intensity – start with the most delicate and finish with the most robust. Pour about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil into each glass. Warm the glass by cupping it and keep the bottom of your hand around the oil to slightly warm it up, bringing out the fragrance of the oil. Cover the glass while swirling to keep in the aroma.
- Smell the oil about three times, looking for some of these notes:
Aroma Descriptors include: apple, almond, artichoke, astringent (a puckering sensation), banana, bitter, buttery, fresh, fruity, grass, green, green leaf, harmonious, hay, melon, perfumy, musky, nutty, woody, peppery, pungent, and rotund.
- Uncover the cup, bring it close to your nose and inhale deeply. Take in the scent and make note of it on a score sheet. Does it smell fresh, green, or rancid? Sip about 1 ½ teaspoons, rolling it in your mouth. Note what it feels like in your mouth. Is it smooth, light, heavy or greasy?
- While the oil is still in your mouth, suck in a bit of air through your teeth to discover the flavors.
- Keeping the oil in your mouth for at least 10 seconds, make note of how it tastes to you. Does it have a taste? You’re looking for a fruitiness, “green” or “sweet” and a “green grass” or “leafy” smell, and also possibly some bitterness. In olive oil, bitterness is good. Ideally, you should get a balanced sensation of fruitiness, bitterness, and pungency, which tells you it’s a good oil.
- Now write down your notes and continue on the next oil. Eat a piece of a green apple slice and a bit of water to cleanse your palette between each tasting.
To continue the fun after the olive oil tasting follow it up with a sit down dinner where each course features a different oil or if it is a stand-up event, after the tasting invite your guests to indulge in appetizers each featuring a different oil. I will post some recipe suggestions for this in an upcoming post.
Don’t forget to have the ABCs for EVOO printed out for your friends so they too can brush up on their terminology during the tasting.
So now you are ready: start planning your next party now!
As always, if you have any questions, suggestions or comments, I would love to hear from you. I am looking forward to hearing about your Olive Oil Tasting success stories.