North American Olive Oil Association Blog

Glossary of olive oil terminology

[fa icon="clock-o"] October 25, 2017 [fa icon="folder-open'] About Olive Oil

What kind of olive oil should you buy? Cold-pressed, first pressed or unfiltered? Here is a list of terms you may see on a bottle of olive oil to help you choose. 

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A glossary of olive oil terminology

Cold-pressed - "Cold pressed" on an extra virgin olive oil label is intended to indicate that the oil was extracted by mechanical means (e.g., pressing) without the addition of heat.  The use of the term is redundant; under the international standards, in order for an olive oil to be labeled as "virgin," it must be extracted by mechanical means without the addition of heat (or chemicals, for that matter).  To the extent it refers to a "press," the term is also anachronistic--nearly all olive oil is extracted using other mechanical means (malaxers and centrifuges) instead of presses.   The term still appears on some labels, however, because many consumers consider it to be an indication of quality. 

Mono-varietal - Most olive oil is made from a blend of different kinds of olives. Mono-varietal means that the bottle is made from olives of one type.

Estate bottled - This means that the oil was harvested and pressed at the same farm where the olives were grown.

Early harvest - Early harvest olive oil means that the olives were picked before they were fully ripened. Early harvest olive oil has a more peppery and bitter taste.

Olio nuovo - This means "new oil".  It refers to olive oil that has been recently harvested and extracted. It is a seasonal product that is only available in the fall/winter (if harvested in the Northern Hemisphere).

Unfiltered - The majority of olive oil is filtered to remove olive solids. Unfiltered olive oil uses gravity to separate the solids from the oil. Some sediment may remain. Read more about unfiltered oil.

Organic - Like other forms of organic produce, organic olive oil means that the olives were grown without the use of chemical pesticides or chemical fertilizers. An accredited organization needs to certify the olives as organic.

First-press - A long time ago, olive oil was pressed and then pressed again. The first press was higher quality. Nowadays, olive oil is extracted very efficiently and not pressed. It is extremely rare to find olive oil that has been pressed once, much less twice.  Learn more about how olive oil is extracted.

Robust/Delicate - This is a description of flavor.  Robust means full-bodied flavor that pairs well with other strong flavors like tomatoes or meat. Delicate or mild olive oil go well with fish or vegetables. 

Extra-light tasting - Extra-light tasting olive oil has the same number of calories as all olive oils. The term refers to the taste which is neutral.

DOP -  Denominazione d' Origine Protetta (roughly, "protected designation of origin") means that the oil was produced from olives grown and processed in a given area. There are also seals that indicate "Protected Designation of Origin" or "Protected Geographical Indication" offered by the European Union.

Want to know more about how to buy a good olive oil?   Read our tips.


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