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What does Extra Virgin Olive Oil mean?

front label extra virgin olive oil

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is, within the virgin olive oils, the category of olive oil with highest quality.

To consider as extra virgin olive oil, the product must have two conditions: a chemical condition, summarized in the percentage of acidity, and the organoleptic analysis, of flavor and aroma, which is checked by trained tasting panels.

Many people do not understand why it's needed to do a tasting panel to classify an extra virgin olive oil. In fact it is a requirement to classify all virgin olive oils because, as fruit juices, a large part of its quality is in its aromas and flavors, and, by now, no instrumental laboratory is capable of measuring as the human nose do.

Requirements of a virgin olive oil to be extra virgin:

1.- Acidity must be less than or equal to 0.8º.

2.- In a tasting panel, the median defects of the product must be zero, and the median of the fruitiness must be over zero

Apart from these two requirements, the legislation adds some other additional parameters that are designed to detect fraud and mixtures with other oils, rather than to classify virgin olive oils.


What does it mean that the median of the defect should be zero?

The olive oil must be tested by a tasting panel composed by several experienced tasters, between seven and twelve normally. This helps to increase the objectivity and validity of the final results.

Let's suppose that the panel is composed of nine tasters and each scored the defect more intense. If the taster does not detect any defect the product is scored with zero. Once finished the taste, the scores are sorted from lowest to highest, as you can see below:


Results of the tasting defect panel
Taster 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Score of the most intense defect 0,0 0,0 0,0 0,0 0,0 1,2 1,4 1,8 1,9


The median is the score given by the taster with the number five, because it is the center rate, between 1 and 9, in this case 0,0 . Therefore the median of the defect will be 0. In cases where the number of tasters is pair, the median average will be the average  between the two central boxes.

Now suppose these tasters valued fruitiness. Scores are sorted again from lowest to highest:


Results of the fruitiness
Taster 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Score of the fruitiness 0,0 0,0 0,0 1,0 1,5 2,5 3,3 3,6 4,0


We look for the score of the taster located in fifth position and the result is 1.5. Therefore the median of the fruity is over zero. This way, following the tasting panel rules, it would be extra virgin oil.

As a conclusion, 'median of the defect zero' means that the majority of the tasters in the panel do not detect any defects and 'medium of fruity over zero' means that the majority of the tasters in the panel consider that the olive oil is fruity.



Olive Oils classified as extra virgin olive oil must include the following descriptive information on their packaging:

'Olive Oil top category obtained directly from olives and solely by mechanical procedures.'