Grocery shopping is probably one of my favourite past times, a busy day or a lazy day, it really doesn’t matter, I’ll happily wonder through the isles and pick up essentials, I might find something on special that will spark an exciting dinner idea or new recipe to embark on. That all fades into oblivion when I hit the olive oil section.
The wall of bottles is overwhelming. They all look the same, or basically the same, they all have different prices, but truthfully I have no idea why. Some bottles are bigger, some smaller, some clear, most green, some with simple modern labels, some with old world designs, most black, some color. It’s all just a wash. I could spend an hour just standing in that section, picking up one bottle after another attempting to read and inspect.
Usually, I have a headache, inspiration is gone, I pick up a not the cheapest, not the most expensive, pretty looking labeled bottle and hope I made the right decision? I honestly have no idea … and I instantly have purchase regret, even before I’ve tasted it, or purchased it for that matter.
So, to tackle the olive oil isle with confidence and prevent your eyes from going blurry or worse giving yourself a headache, here are a few tricks and important pieces to look for on a bottle.
- Find a Harvest Date – not a bottling date or an expiry date or a best before date – a harvest date. The expiry or best before date listed on a bottling date, not the harvest date. The fresher the better so finding a harvest date is key to ensuring that your olive oil is actually fresh
- Dark Green Glass – light is one of the three things that will make your olive oil go rancid quickly, if the olive oil is in a clear glass bottle its almost guaranteed to be rancid.
- Don’t buy the most expensive one on the shelf. Why? In the olive oil world, price and quality are not in sync. This is mostly because olive oil yes is shelf stable but is not a condiment, it’s a fruit juice and needs to be consumed quickly. Expensive olive oils are not purchased as often as middle of the road priced bottles, which will be restocked more often and therefore purchased more often, so the reality is, the middle of the road bottle is probably fresher than the really expensive, dust covered bottle that has been sitting on the shelf a while. That really expensive olive oil probably was incredible when it was first made, although, it’s probably been on the shelf a while, so your best bet is the faster moving less expensive bottle.
- Don’t buy the olive oil on the top shelf. Since light is an enemy of olive oil, the bottles on the top shelf are sitting under the florescent lights, the heat from the light as well as the light itself can damage the olive oil, so middle of the shelf will again be the best bet for fresher olive oil.
- Chemistry – If you can find any data on the bottle, something that says acidity <0.3 or DAG – 92, these are very good things. It’s very rare to find part or all of the chemistry analysis required by the International Olive Oil Council on a bottle of olive oil, although to be technically classed as extra virgin grade this analysis needs to be completed and the oil must pass the parameters. The most common parameter to find on a bottle is the acidity, which describes the stability of the olive oil and the quality of the fruit at the time of press.
Trust me, its still overwhelming and challenging to find a quality bottle of olive oil. To be safe, I order directly from producers or online through a marketplace like the OliveOilTimes.com/marketplace or oliveoillovers.com. The quality in an online market place is definitely higher than the grocery store, but it’s still hard to really understand and learn about what to expect from the oil from the description. If you’re interested in learning more, check out my reviews here, where I taste olive oils live and talk about their quality, taste profile and culinary uses.
Now you can go with confidence and tackle that wall of bottles and come out exhilarated and not exhausted by the choices.