Your Guide to the Olive Oil Aisle
BY FRANCESCA VAN SOEST, SEPTEMBER 17th, 2020
We know that the olive oil aisle can be a scary place for any grocery store buyer. With seemingly endless options from all over the world it can be easy to simply allow yourself to be persuaded by appealing labels or brands you have always known. Unfortunately though, with the amount of adulteration that has been discovered in the world of olive oil, it is important to know that what you are buying is actually a good quality extra virgin. Here are 3 things to look for while you are shopping to help give you a clue to the quality and transparency of an olive oil:
- Look for a Harvest Date on the bottle. This is probably one of the most useful pieces of information you can look for. Ideally all bottles would have the harvest date on the bottles, but unfortunately it is rarely the case. Most brands would rather not put the date on there because a lot of the time they have to blend years together to try and freshen up old oil. And because Harvest Dating is not a mandatory labeling practice, it is likely that if a product chooses to put it on, it is because they want you to know that they produce a fresh, trustworthy product. Olive harvest in the Northern Hemisphere happens in October/November for California, and May/June in Southern Hemisphere climates.
- Look for a Best By Date. This is a good thing to look out for, however there are also some issues with current Best By dating. According to the International Olive Councils labelling laws, producers can put a generic 2 year Best By Date from the time of bottling on their bottles. This means that an oil could be over a year old by the time it is bottled and just on the cusp of being virgin rather than extra virgin, but then still get a 2 year best by put on it, even though the oil will certainly not make it 2 full years. At Cobram Estate, we perform best by dating unique to each and every batch of olive oil we bottle, meaning we give accurate real life dates for when your oil will go rancid. The way you can tell if there is an accurate best by date on the bottle would be to check for the harvest date followed by a Best By Date that is not a generic 2 years from the harvest date or bottling date.
- Look for a single origin oil. Fantastic olive oil can be made all over the world, there is no question about that. What is of a concern however is when companies take oils from different origins and blend them together into one batch of olive oil. This can become problematic when you begin to blend oils from different countries or even different hemispheres together. Some of the issues with this practice is that if you blend oils from 2 different hemispheres together then it is really hard to put a reliable harvest date, as each oil was harvested 6 months apart. It is also problematic because different oils of different qualities can be blended together to turn a virgin olive oil into an extra virgin olive oil chemically, covering up the existing negative attributes. For the best quality and most reliable extra virgin oils, we recommend looking for a brand that keeps their oil single origin and celebrates the uniqueness of each different location where their oil is produced.
We hope that these tips and tricks are helpful and that they will help give you a bit of a tool kit when approaching the olive oil aisle. And as always, stay safe out there and stay healthy. Don’t forget to cook lots of yummy olive oil filled dishes and spend time with family in the kitchen!