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How to Choose an Extra Virgin Olive Oil

You arrive at your grocer's display to select a good olive oil or worse, you launch an online search... the result is an almost guaranteed headache! To help you choose the right product for your needs, here are a few easy-to-follow tips.




Here are some guidelines to help you recognize a good product on the shelf or online at a glance: 

  • In French, the real name is "vierge extra" and not "extra virgin" on the containers. This is the recognized denomination, because an oil, before being extra, is virgin. If it meets the highest standards of the industry ... it deserves the term "extra".
  • A dark or opaque container should be preferred. This will preserve the product from light, one of the factors that contribute to the oxidation of the oil. 

  • A "best before" date to give you an idea of freshness. The farther away you are from this date, the fresher the product is bottled. Usually, under good conditions, an olive oil will keep up to 24 months after harvest.

  • A fair price: Olive growing, although modernized and automated in the last decades, still requires care and labor throughout the year. The olive trees are resistant and live a long time, and even if we want to mechanize the harvest, the cultivation patterns of the last century do not always fit with the mechanized harvesting equipment. Moreover, we often forget that the olive is a fruit, and a fruit deteriorates rapidly if the necessary conditions for its preservation are not met. Moreover, the Canadian climate is not conducive to the cultivation of the olive tree. Therefore, no matter what brand of extra virgin olive oil is available, it is imported. Here are just a few facts that allow us to understand that extra virgin olive oil at $8 per liter is questionable. The efforts put in throughout the chain mean that a fresh and balanced extra virgin olive oil should be on the market in a range closer to $22 to $26 per liter.

Selection and Manufacturing Process Olive Oil


Everything starts with the basic product: the olive and the care that will be taken to grow it, to maintain the olive grove and especially to harvest it. 

At Maison Orphée, our professional tasters select extra virgin olive oils from small-scale producers in Spain, Argentina and Chile. Depending on the hemisphere, the olive harvest takes place in the north from October to January and in the south from May to July. 

In the field, the ripe and healthy olives are harvested and placed in crates. Harvesting is done according to the type of olive and its level of ripeness. The olives are taken to the mill, washed and pulped to extract the oil as quickly as possible, otherwise fermentation may occur which will affect the quality of the oil. A cold extracted olive oil will then be filtered and stored in giant barrels until the moment of bottling. If made and stored in good conditions, it can be kept for up to 24 months, depending on the variety of olives. 

Generally, extra virgin olive oil is at its best a few weeks after extraction. So, it is better to consume it fresh. That's why we prefer to source our oil from both hemispheres. This allows us to offer very fresh oil throughout the year. We generally receive the harvest of the northern hemisphere in February and that of the southern hemisphere towards the end of August. 

Olive oil, like wine, has a thousand different taste profiles. The specific taste of an olive oil comes from the cultivar or cultivars used to extract it, not to mention the climatic conditions which, from one year to the next, can influence the organoleptic profile. 


Characteristics Sought Olive Oil



It's time to talk about organoleptic quality. Like wine, olive oil is appreciated by the senses. Specifically by the nose and the mouth. The color is of less importance. In fact, at tasting panels, olive oil samples are usually served in dark glasses to avoid the tasters being influenced by the color. Keep in mind the acronym FBP stands for pungency, bitterness and fruitiness. It is these three balanced positive attributes and lack of defects that make a good extra virgin olive oil.

  • Fruity: you can smell it (greens, banana, artichoke, tomato stem) and then taste it. It is a fresh, non-greasy mouthfeel. It is not the fact of detecting an odour or a flavour of fruit as such, but rather the ''plant'' aspect, in a more or less pronounced intensity. 

  • Bitter: it is like in IPA beers, dark chocolate or coffee. A good oil has a nice bitterness that can only be appreciated in the mouth. 

  • Peppery: it's this intense sensation, which can cause a tingling in the throat or even a cough once the oil is swallowed. This is causes by the phenolic compounds (antioxidants) in the oil. 

  • We can't ignore the defects, because although the fruitiness, bitterness and spiciness must be present, it is essential that the extra virgin olive oil has no defects. Otherwise, it loses its "extra" and should simply be considered virgin (or even simply olive oil, depending on the level of olive acidity-under 0.8 for an extra virgin oil, under 1.5 for a virgin oil). Defects can occur at various points in the process from harvest to marketing in the store. Moreover, they rarely come alone. That is, one defect sometimes leads to another. So, pay attention and take the time to recognize them. The most common ones are rancidity, vinegar and mould. Rancidity is denoted by smells reminiscent of crayons, bags of unfresh chips, rancid nuts. Vinegar is generally known. In oil, it can be denoted by smells reminiscent of ammonia. Musty smells like old drawer bottoms and humidity.


Let's go back to the positive attributes. These must be present in balance. This means that each is present in the oil at a similar level, from delicate to intense. This is what makes a harmonious oil that will enhance the dish you are cooking. 

Product range Maison Orphée


Extra virgin olive oil is more than just fat. It's a sauce that goes with everything, from appetizers to desserts! As you will have understood, to know if you have a good one, you will have to taste it and exercise your taste buds. Whether you want it organic or not, delicate or punchy, Maison Orphée offers a varied selection of fresh olive oils bottled here by a team that has been making a specialty of it for nearly 40 years. So, sharpen your taste buds, discover your favorite and above all... have fun!

Discover our complete range of extra virgin olive oil

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