THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN EXTRA VIRGIN AND OTHER OILS
A good extra virgin is made with olives picked up directly from the tree between November and January. The best moment is when the olives start changing colour from green to black (all the olives start green and become black). The olives need to be pressed within 48 hours. If an oil is made in this way, and shows no tasting imperfections, can be called an Extra Virgin Olive Oil. If it shows some defects it can be labelled Virgin Olive Oil.
After the olives are pressed, the waste pulp, named Sansa, is normally sold as a fertilizer. The Sansa can be further treated with solvents and high temperature to obtain further oil. This is a very low quality oil and is named Olive Residue Oil or Pomace Oil.
Very often farmers pick the olives from the ground rather than from the tree as this is less expensive. Those olives are rotten and, when pressed, they produce an oil that is not edible named “Lampante”. This oil needs to be sterilized with hot water in order to obtain a Refined Oil, an oil that can be edible but has no taste. A mixture of 99% of refined oil and 1% of extra virgin oil can be sold under the name of Olive Oil.
THE LIE OF MANY ITALIAN BRANDS
An Extra Virgin Olive Oil should match some minimum chemical requirements and be able to pass the exam of a team of professional tasters (Panel Test) with no relevant defects. A Panel Test can find defects that are invisible to a chemical analysis but unfortunately it is seldom performed and many Extra Virgin Oils in commerce would not pass it.
The problem with many Italian extra virgin olive oils is that even if they match those requirements in Italy they do not need to do so in the US. Many brands produce two lines: one for Europe and another one for the US and other countries.
Another problem is that 90% of Italian brands normally bottle cheap oils from other countries, mainly Spain.
Spanish Oil is produced in an intensive way using the more productive olives picked very late (when close to be rotten) in order to obtain the maximum quantity of oil. The quality is often very poor but the price very competitive.
Almost all of the famous Italian brands bottle oils from Spain. In Italy they are compelled to tell about the origin on the label but nothing is required for the US market. The strength of the Spanish suppliers is so big that they bought several Italian brands.
A serious lack of the US legislation in olive oils is that it doesen’t require an expiry date. Many bottles on the shelves don’t even show a lot number. This is so unfair as the oil DOES expiry. In Europe the date is printed at 18 months after the bottling date. As time goes by perfumes vanish and if you open a bottle after 3 years it will likely be rancid. The law in Europe also asks to have a lot number so that, in case of any problem, a specific lot can be recalled from the market.
On the above problems some articles where published in the US :
The Olive Oil Seems Fine. Whether It's Italian Is the Issue. The New York Times 07/05/2004.
Slippery Business. The Trade In Adulterated Olive Oil. The New Yorker 13/08/2007
THE QUALITY OF THE EXTRA VIRGIN FROM COSTA DEI ROSMARINI
Costa dei Rosmarini guarantees quality levels far above those required in Europe for a normal extra virgin olive oil.
The quality of an extra virgin is given by several variables: some are subjective and can be perceived only by tasting, some others are objective and can be evaluated by chemichal analysis or documentary evidence.
The objective qualities that Costa dei Rosmarini guarantees for all his extra virgins are printed on our labels.
The acidity of an oil is not perceivable by human palate but it tells about the decomposition of the product. An extra virgin, if it complies with the law, must have acidity below 0.8%, Costa dei Rosmarini guarantees an acidity level below 0.3% for the Santa Chiara and DOP lines, an acidity below 0.4% for the Santa Giulia line.
Another important variable is the level of peroxides that tells about the oxidation of an oil. Oxidation naturally affects the oil as time goes by and it is accelerated by the contact with air. The higher the oxidation the worse the quality and after a certain level the oil becomes rancid. Costa dei Rosmarini guarantees peroxides below 10 versus a maximum level of 20 required by the law for the extra virgins.
Few consumers know that the law asks to print an expiry date of 18 months from the bottling date. The production date for the law is irrilevant. In order to lower their costs many producers bottle old oils or mix different harvests. Costa dei Rosmarini guarantees that only the latest available harvest is bottled and as a proof for this commitment the harvest year is printed on the label even if this is not required by the law.
Costa dei Rosmarini bottles high quality extra virgin olive oil produced only with 100% italian olives.
What makes really outstanding the extra virgins from Costa dei Rosmarini is something hardly measurable: their taste. The several Restaurants awarded by the Michelin Guide and the many five stars Hotels that use everyday our products, are the best guarantee of our quality.