To give you an idea of the vast selection of quality olive oils, Spain has 5.7 million acres of olive groves producing 250 different varieties and some of its trees are as old as 1,000 years. Thanks to past inhabitants such as the Phoenicians, Romans and Muslims we can savor this “oro liquido”.
To understand olive oil and appreciate its subtle differences in color, aromas, and tastes one can associate an olive oils “terroir” to that of a wine with a certain “terroir”. It’s the combination of the DO’s climate and soil where the olive tree of a specific variety grows that will produce an olive oil with distinct characteristics. You will discover when you taste an olive oil made of Arbequina in Les Garrigues will be completely different from Picudo grown in Jaén.
How to properly savor an olive oil and discover those subtle differences? Try doing the following as if you were going to taste a wine, as the experts at the Spanish government institution “Olive Oil from Spain” suggest:
Color: Examine the color. The two most important factors influencing the color of the finished oil are the variety of olive and its maturity as the time of harvest. Early picked olives yield darker, greener oils, while riper olives produce oils that are lighter and more yellow in color.
Aroma: With a few thoughtful sniffs, take in the fragrance. With the best oils you should be able to detect the fresh, fruity, aroma of the olive.
Taste: Finally, taste the oil either by dipping a piece of white bread into the glass, or by drawing a teaspoon of oil quickly into the mouth, mixing it with air to register the sensation of all the nuances of flavor. Between sips, cleanse the palate with a piece of crisp apple, fresh sliced fennel or unflavored sparkling water.