SAN POLO IN CHIANTI, Italy – Out of all the field trips we’ve been on so far (and that number has stretched to three, featuring five food related locations and one culture related stop in Siena), my favorite by far was the trip to the olive oil factory on May 27. In case you were unaware, olive oil is basically the Italian equivalent of ranch dressing in the sense that it goes with everything you could ever imagine, including, but not limited to, bread, pasta, tomatoes and chocolate gelato (it’s a thing, and it’s delicious).
Olive oil is immensely important here in Italy, and tasting the oil is just as important, according to olive oil expert, Emanuele Innocenti of the Azienda Agricola Frantoio Pruneti olive oil company. Tasting the oil is important because there aren’t any real checks on the oil before it goes out for sale, and it’s difficult to stop people who attempt to fake extra virgin olive oil, according to Innocenti.
To demonstrate his point, he had us all sample four different kinds of olive oils in a blind test. To start, we had to place the small glasses of oil in our hands and warm them to bring out the aromas. Next, we were instructed to smell the oil, pick out a scent or two present, and then drink the oil straight. After these small shots of olive oil, we were told to grimace and suck in air through out teeth to enhance the flavors.
The first one was a sample of store bought, off brand olive oil. This kind of olive oil is cooked at very high temperatures, so it is high in fat and low in vitamins and polyphenol. The taste is somewhat metallic, and it is thinner in consistency.
The second kind was made from small dry black olives called moraiolo olives. This oil had a somewhat spicy finish, with a grassy smell. It was delicious with classic saltless Tuscan bread.
The third kind was made from larger green olives called frantoio olives. It was quite bitter and very grassy. This one was my least favorite.
The fourth one had the most flavor and was made from a mixture of olives. It was very fresh and complemented the bruschetta provided to us from the factory. So yummy!