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Convivium of the senses of the olive oil

The experience of a "feast for the senses oil" to understand the sensory function of the olive oil of excellence.


Sitting, in small groups, around the tables to taste the foods enriched by the aromas and flavors of precious olive oils of excellence. It is this, in essence, the proposal of the "Convivium of the senses of the olive oil: Seven small bottles on each table, each with an oil of excellence - DO-RE-MI-FA-SOL-LA-SI.
The seven oils, as 7 notes, form a 'harmony of colours, smells and tastes from the most delicate, to the fruity, up to the most robust, all of them sprightly due to a tactile sensation of pungency, more or less intense. The chef prepares dishes lacking only for the addition of olive oil to complete the sensory profile. It will be the guests themselves to do so, adding the most suitable oil to give personality, aroma, flavour and smoothness to the food.
To begin to define the limits of the experience, three small portions of boiled white rice, neutral from a sensory point of view, will be tasted, after the addition to each one, respectively, of the more delicate olive oil, the most fragrant and the most strong one. It will be the new sensory profile of the samples of rice to unveil the sensory potential of the oils used. Then we will continue with the same method to taste the dishes before and after the addition of the various oils. We can then see if it is true that the value added of the olive oil of excellence lies in its ability to characterize and give personality to the foods to which it is added: the result is the pleasure of the palate.

The producers of excellent olive oils known the sensory capabilities of their own oils. They know how to find the targeted sensory profiles, using different olive varieties, appropriate farming practices, the right level of ripeness and extraction technologies, to get different oils to transmit to customers, with a new descriptive and emotional language, flavours, aromas, emotions, memories from the production area.
In the culture of oil of excellence, the protagonists are:


  • A sensorial scale of oils of excellence
  • A chef who knows how to prepare foods that are enriched with flavours and aromas by the olive oils.
  • Guests curious and refined, with a  lively sensory attention.

In a convivial tasting one can evaluate the combination between food and olive oils with the simple use of our senses: SIGHT - SMELL - TOUCH – TASTE
The variety of olives, their state of maturation and the technology used to extract the oil are the factors that condition the sensory profile of the oils of excellence.
For driving the consumers in choosing the olive oils on the basis of their sensory functionality we suggest to classify the oils into three categories:
DELICATE: where the components of aroma, pungency and bitterness are of slight intensity and the value lies in their ability to give to the food: softness, roundness, tactile harmony and palatability.
FRUITY: where the smell is the dominant character, with aspects of spicy and bitter balanced and of medium intensity. This category includes such oils characterized by hints of cut grass or tomato, both of the fruit and the leaf, produced from olives of early and medium maturity.
The use of crushers at low speed helps obtain fresh and lively olive oils. The kneading times should generally be short and we have verified the importance of reducing, but not eliminating, the availability of oxygen in the kneading machine to generate and preserve the aromas and protect from oxidation the phenol compounds, such as astringency bearer tyrosol, like the spicy oleocanthal and as the bitter oleuropein aglycone.
ROBUST: which give strength and character to the foods thanks to the intense pungency and bitterness of artichokes aroma.

Our senses to assess the sensory functionality of the olive oils of excellence.

It is fundamental that the guests are careful in their evaluation of the sensory profile of the food before and after the addition of the oil. Only then can they understand the sensorial contribution that each oil can make : a delicate nutty flavor in a fluid oil from the Ligurian taggiasca; the fresh scent of tomatoe supported by a slight bitter green leaf and thistle made lively by the spicy heat of a skillful blend of Sicilian olives as Nocellara del Belice, Cerasuola, Biancolilla; the intense bitterness with the flavor of artichoke, combined with an energetic and pungent bodied oils of Tuscany and Puglia from varieties such as Frantoio, Leccio del Corno, Paranzana or Coratina, with a slight scent of cut grass . The Italian prerogative to be able to offer a wide range of oils in a palette of flavors and fragrances so wide, represents an exceptional heritage which needs only a serious commitment to its exploitation.
In tasting the foods, to which was added an olive oil of excellence as a bearer in taste, the evaluation of the results obtained on the sensory profile is linked to the combination of 4 of our senses:


Colour: from bright green to yellow with green reflexes |- ----------------------- +|

Intensity:                                                                                          |- ----------------------- +|

Clarity: from cloudy to clear                                                      |- ----------------------- +|


Smell through the nose: Cut grass, tomato etc etc.

Intensity     : |- ----------------------- +|

Persistence: |- ----------------------- +|


By post-nasal aroma: fruit (apple, banana, guava, tomatoes, berries, lemon, etc.);

vegetablesi (artichokes, cardoon, celery, etc.);seeds (almond, walnut, etc.)

Intensity:      |- ----------------------- +|

Persistence: |- ----------------------- +|



Intensity:      |- ----------------------- +|

Persistence: |- ----------------------- +|

Astringente: |- ----------------------- +|

Persistenza : |- ----------------------- +|

Viscosità:       |- ----------------------- +|



Intensity:      |- ----------------------- +|

Persistence: |- ----------------------- +|

If we put in a two-dimensional graph the intensity from 0 to 5, of the olfactory perceptions (smell and   aroma), then taste (bitter) and the tactile (pungency) we obtain a distribution that identifies 3 areas of aggregation attributable to 3 categories of oils defined: DELICATE – FRUITY  - ROBUST.

tabella-convivio eng

To complete the sensory evaluation we must introduce the time factor to describe the evolution of the sensorial perceptions. The olfactory perception is the first to be perceived but it is also the one that will be exhausted quickest. It is followed by the bitterness which has a greater persistence. The chemesthetic  perception of pungency begins with a slight delay compared to the bitterness and it has an evolution often more pronounced, with a predominance over the others in the final stage. Finally the chemesthetic perception of astringency, when present, overlaps all the others including the bitterness and, if it is too intense, it gives an overall impression of disharmony.

The control of the supply chain for the enhancement of the sensory function of the olive oils of excellence.
This is the great challenge facing the new oil producers of olive oil of excellence: enhancement of the hard production work of the olives, the protection of the landscape and environment, consumer education and the diffusion of the culture of our culinary traditions. The economic value of an oil of excellence is proportional to its sensory value. The total control of the production chain is the only real possibility to obtain oils of excellence to be consumed uncooked as promoters of flavor. The agronomic treatments, from pruning to fertilizing, to the irrigation support in pest control, are essential to get to the olive harvest under optimal plant health.
But it is only being able to decide, for each variety, the optimal harvest time that oils with the characteristics of excellence can be obtained, such as those defined in the Protocol of the 3E Association, founded by Claudio Peri, which is shown for comparison with the expected values ​​for the extra virgin olive oils:

Parameters of excellence 3E Olive Oil Extra virgin olive Oil 

Acidity as oleic acid (% by weight)

< 0,3 < 0,8

Peroxides in meq of O2/kg

< 7,5 – 8(*) < 20

Absorption at 232 nm

<1,85 – 2,0(*) < 2,50

Absence of sensory defects

Sensorial profile

The evaluation (1) of sensory styles of "superpremium olive oils "includes the definition of complete sensory profile of flavor, mechanical and chemesthetic sensations and the and the evaluation of the TDS (Temporal Dominance of Sensations) of food matrices.
(1) Method for sensory evaluation according to E. Monteleone et al. – Florence

Median of the defect = 0

Median of the defect >0

Process Control

Positive evaluation of at least 7 of the 10 points critical control of the production process;
Rating necessarily positive points concerning the traceability and documentation.

 no indication


Documentation in real time of budget materials for each batch of super-premium olive oil from the moment of production to the moment of exhaustion of the batch.
Traceability extended to the chain of distribution to the end consumer.

 in accordance with regulations

(*) per biologic productions

The total control of the production chain, from the olive tree to the table, is the only real possibility of obtaining olive oil of excellence.
The separate harvesting of different varieties, during the peak of ripeness, the immediate transport to the mill in ventilated boxes, and the early processing prevents the formation of distasteful, and sometimes unrecognized, defect of fusty and instead exalts the potential expressible only with a mild technology of extractions . In fact, almost all the sensory aspects of olive oil are consequence of the technological process of extraction. The degree of ripening allows to decide the optimal conditions of pressing (e.g. the diameter of the holes of the grid, in the hammer crushers, or the distance between the disks, in the discs crusher). The sensory profile and the stability of the olive oil may be influenced by using the pitting machine, instead of the crusher, to have more stable oils, less bitter and more balanced.
With the malaxing one obtains important effects on the sensory profile and on the stability of the oils. The control of the atmosphere in the malaxer can properly modulate the activity of enzymes solutes in the vegetable water. Some of them have positive effects on yield extraction, degrading the pectin and helping to liberate the oil from the cellular structures, others are important for the development of volatile compounds, breaking the molecules of polyunsaturated fatty acids, linoleic and linolenic acids, in volatile fragments to 5 and 6 carbon atoms. Still others have negative effects, releasing free fatty acids from triglycerides or oxidizing fatty acids and polyphenols. The malaxer must be operated as a bio-reactor, and for this purpose must be designed in a suitable manner, such as the malaxer Ellypse, designed by me for Agrivision. The controlled contact between the olive oil and the vegetal water, contained in the olives, allows the passage, into the olive oil, of the minor components such as polyphenols, tocopherols, chlorophyll, carotenoids, triterpene alcohols, phytosterols, squalene, which characterize it both from the sensory point of view and the nutritional and health point of view and give the necessary stability. A fundamental aspect of the olive oil production systems, little considered, is the ease of cleaning and the containment to a minimum of dead space, in which you can have accumulation of residues of paste that can damage the oil, with their fermentative and oxidative deterioration. Once extracted, the oil must be immediately stripped of water and impurities, with a suitable filtration with cellulose, so that the water is eliminated and does not have fermentations, in the aqueous phase, which may alter the oil and transmit abnormal tastes. The filtered oil should be stored in tanks made of stainless steel AISI 304 under inert gas at 16 ° C (+ / -2 ° C) until bottling. For oils of excellence it is then essential that the manufacturer controls the conditions of shipment and storage of oil up to the table of the final consumer, to avoid that all his efforts are thwarted and his image compromised by poor conservation, particularly for exposure to high temperatures and to light.
For the final consumer it is important to know that, at the opening of a large bottle or a can of oil from 3 to 5 liters, the entire content must be transferred into small dark glass bottles, to avoid that the oil, being too long in contact with the air in the open container, will be oxidized and get the flavor of rancid. For this reason, instead of a can, it is better to use the bag-in-box, where the olive oil is protected from contact with air until its total consumption..
All the work that is necessary to produce an olive oil of excellence finds its recognition only if the producer is able to convey to the end-customer the sensory, emotional and healthy value of its olive oil.
Only a trustable relationship between consumers and producers allows both to obtain their own satisfaction, between price and quality: this is the mission of the network OLIOSAPIENSTM who wants to offer a selected olive oil of excellence to selected Consumers in selected Restaurants and Food Boutiques.

Lamberto Baccioni – March 2013

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