[ March 28, 2005 ]
| Mastri Oleari:
Olive Oil Masters
In Italy, the production and consumption of olive oil is deeply
rooted in the country’s culture. Age-old, this know-how is jealously
guarded and preserved so that it may be passed down to future generations
by the Corporazione dei Mastri Oleari (CMO)—corporation of
olive oil masters—whose president we met with during his passage at
the MONTREAL HIGH LIGHTS Festival.
With his happy-go-lucky expression and great big smile, Flavio Zaramella,
President of the CMO, places us within his context: “As I see it,
protecting the production of high-quality olive oils is, above all, the
responsibility of citizens,” states Mr. Zaramella with the utmost
of passion—a passion he shares with the other olive oil masters accompanying
him. The word “quality” is something to be taken very seriously.
“Olive oil is more than just a condiment,” explains Mr. Zaramella.
“It is key to maintaining good health… when it is properly made.”
Eating for one’s health, and one’s pleasure!
The quality of the final product depends greatly upon the method of production
that is used. The traditional method—which does not exclude the use
of certain modern-day technologies—requires that olives be hand picked
at precisely the right moment, that they be pressed immediately (to prevent
them from fermenting) using a mechanical cold-pressing process to ensure
that all organoleptic and chemical properties are preserved. This procedure
ensures that the resulting olive oil is rich, notably in chlorophyll and
carotene which confers the product its colour, in polyphenols which give
the oil its slightly bitter taste and a light astringency which are synonymous
with quality, and in Vitamin E, the latter two being high in antioxidants.
“This is the only way to produce an oil that can be enjoyed both for
its flavour and its health benefits,” insists Mr. Zaramella!
The CMO—a guarantee of quality for consumers?
This corporation was established in 1984 out of the desire of several
producers and other olive oil professionals to represent and preserve what
is synonymous with the highest quality in olive oils. Today, there is a
charter that governs the organization and its 100 members are selected according
to very strict standards. Members include producers as well as journalists,
university researchers, marketing and communication consultants, etc. “Not
just anybody can become an olive oil master,” states Mr. Zaramella.
In fact, in addition to having their olive oil tasted and chemically analyzed,
candidates will be evaluated in terms of their commercial and producer morality.
Not only must products be of the highest quality, it is important to ensure
that candidates have never violated the ethics of their profession!
“This is precisely why, as a consumer, you look for the Mastri
Oleari lion on the bottle of olive oil you wish to purchase. This way, you
can rest assured that you are buying an oil of the highest quality,”
states the President.
Time for tasting!
Before this mosaic of aromas, flavours and textures that constitutes the
world of olive oils, it is not always easy to choose! There are specific
olive-oil tasting techniques that can be learned. Here are a few tips from
Alfredo Mancianti, olive oil tasting professional, for properly indulging
in this palate-pleasing exercise:
- Pour the green gold into a small glass (with no stem if possible)
- Examine the oil’s colour, sheen and density
- Warm the oil in your hands (ideally at 28°C)
- Try and capture all of the aromas using a very special technique:
use each nostril separately before using them together (this helps enhance
your sense of smell)
- Place the oil in your mouth and proceed with retro-olfaction—
while keeping the oil in your mouth, take a strong breath to enhance taste
while being attentive to reaching a certain point of bitterness, synonymous
with a high-quality oil (presence of polyphenols)
- Slowly swirl the oil in your mouth to sense its consistency, density and
- Lastly, swallow the oil while focusing on the tingling sensation that
a good olive oil procures to the throat (presence of Vitamin E)
Mastri Olearis are scattered throughout Italy, but, together, have
certainly left us with the desire to discover more about the wonderful world
of olive oils!