How to Read and Understand Labels on Olive Oil Bottles

understanding labels

One of the easiest ways to understand the quality and type of the oil is to read the labels on the bottles. Although, reading a label does not ensure that you are getting the best quality oil; but understanding the labels gives you some idea of the quality, type, origin, brand, process etc. If you buy your oil at a place where you cannot taste it for some reasons, or there is none to give your expert and professional advice, I recommend that you read the label as a minimum care measure.

Generally, a label bears good information through some technical terms, and if you are familiar with them and can interpret them, it helps a lot in choosing better quality oil. Some of the information on the labels is general like referring to the estate, taste, color etc while other must conform to international regulatory standards like those set by IOC. The general information may vary from producer to producer both in terms and meanings but the legal information must be denoting the meaning and purpose that has been explained by the regulatory bodies. Here is a brief explanation of information which can be commonly found on bottled oils.

 1. First cold pressed

Obtained from the first pressing using traditional methods without any use of heat. First cold pressed are often the best, the healthiest but the most expensive.

 2. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

This is a legal term and must conform to the standards of IOC. This is the best oil. It is cold pressed and extracted mechanically. More info…

  1. Virgin Olive Oil: This is one grade lower than extra virgin.
  2. Refined Olive Oil: Refined means that the oil has gone through chemical process and has been refined. It has little nutritional value.
  3. Pure Olive Oil: It is somewhat similar to refined. Pure here does not mean high quality. It refers to the oil which is processed and general stripped of micro nutrients. It also refers to the blend of refined and virgin oil.
  4. Light Olive Oil: That which is light or lite in color and taste. It is not light in fats.
  5. Pomace: Blend of virgin and pomace.
  6. Lampante: Lamp oil, not fit for human consumption.

 3. Cold pressed

Extracted without any heat above 28c.  If the label does not mention first cold pressed, then oil are, sometimes, obtained from the second pressing.  The cold pressed oil is healthy, having great aroma, and perfect flavor etc.

4. Estate Bottled / Single Estate Oils

Oil made from cold pressed and hand picked olives within hours of harvest. These are the best oil often sold for premium prices. Estate bottled or single estate oils means that the olives might have been collected only from the farm or estate of a single family. This means that the oil is the product of only one kind of olive without any commercially mixture of large quantities of different varieties.

5.  Affioflor/flor de aceite /lagrima:

Another name for it flowers are tears. Rare methods, desirable, old millstones. High quality.

6. Date and Year Pressing

This is very good source of information. It determines the age of the oil. If the pressing date is recent, it means fresher oil. The recent the date is, the better and fresher the product.

7. Unfiltered

This means one less process or filtering. Such oils may seem murky may have solid content which settles at the bottom of the bottle. Such unfiltered are healthy and of high quality.

8. Single varietals

It means that the oil is obtained only from a single variety of olive fruit. If you have a taste only for a particular variety, this information may prove useful.

9. Blends

It is just the opposite of Single varietals. It means that several varieties of olive fruit has been used to produce the oil.

10. Organic production/ecological production

Olive cultivated by organic methods which means without the use of any chemical or pesticides. These are often produced by small village producers or cooperatives. If their methods are approved and monitored by certified agencies, then these are the best type of olive oils.

11. Produce of or Packed in

This is the most misleading labelling and must be read carefully. It means oils were originated somewhere else but packed or bottled in another country. They are labelled produce of and not product of. Recently outlawed. more research.

 12. Max Acidity

It means the maximum level of oleic acid which is a monounsaturated fatty acid. The label may mention the max acidity level as 0.3%, 0.80 or 1% etc. The lowest the acidity level, the better is the oil. Extra virgin labels should not bear acidity level of more than 0.80%

13. PGI

PGI is short for Protected Geographical Indication. It means that the product is produced in a specified geographical location.

14. PDO or DO (Denominación de Origin)

It stands for protected Designation of Origin. It indicates that the oil is guaranteed to have come from particular country or region

Read the label on the bottle before you buy

“There is not standard formula, but you should at least make sure of a where it comes from, how it was processed and what gone into it. in general the more information on the label, the better the oil.”

 Andrew Langley, The Little Book of Olive Oil Tips, Absolute Press, Bath, Great Britain, 2008.

“… I like them all, but especially the olive. For what it symbolizes, first of all- peace with its leaves, and joy with its golden oil.”

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

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