Extra virgin olive oil is a product with a thousand properties, with different characteristics depending on the variety of cultivars from which it is extracted, but also on the soil, climate, and other factors. In this article, we focus on two peculiarities that extra virgin olive oil can have: the bitter taste and the spicy aftertaste. Both are qualities of the oil, which indicate its quality in different ways. The bitterness and spiciness of the oil are indicators of the presence of polyphenols, compounds found in many foods, which are necessary for a good life because they provide high nutritional values.

Those who do not know extra virgin olive oil well might think that the bitterness tasted and the slight spiciness felt in the throat are signs of poor quality: quite the opposite. An organically produced extra virgin olive oil cannot do without these characteristics, more or less pronounced depending on the olive variety, the degree of ripeness, and the harvest period. Depending on the type of olive used, the taste of the oil will have more or less intense notes of bitterness and spiciness.

Today, organic oil producers like Frantoio Antonacci tend to work with less ripe olives in the milling process, thus obtaining higher quality oil compared to traditional methods. With greener olives, the oil will have a more pronounced bitter taste and a higher presence of polyphenols. Sweeter oils, even shortly after production, are those obtained with riper olives.

It is also mistakenly thought that bitterness and acidity in extra virgin olive oil are strictly connected. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the acidity of the oil is not perceived by tasting but only through specific analyses. The consumer often does not know that extra virgin olive oil producers must comply with a community regulation that sets a limit for the oil’s acidity level.

Frantoio Antonacci has been producing organic extra virgin olive oil for decades, adopting even stricter measures than those imposed by law, to provide customers with oil with an acidity level lower than the required parameters. The low acidity level of the oil thus represents a hallmark of high product quality.

Spiciness in oil is another prized characteristic, more pronounced in freshly produced oils. “Spicy oil” is an extra virgin oil of undoubted goodness that can be used on raw foods to further appreciate its taste. As the oil “ages,” it tends to lose its spicy aftertaste but retains its organoleptic characteristics over time.

Antonacci’s organic extra virgin olive oil is produced from three main cultivars: Coratina, Peranzana, and Ogliarola, and it is particularly with the first variety of olive that a more intense oil with a bitter and spicy taste is obtained. For its production, the olives are milled while still green, and the resulting oil has a typical yellow-green color, with an intense and fruity aroma.

The Peranzana is a variety of olive that yields highly prized extra virgin olive oil, with a rich taste and a floral bouquet with a balanced bitter flavor, enhancing and flavoring traditional Italian dishes.

Finally, the Ogliarola Garganica, a typical cultivar from the Gargano area, produces a more balanced oil, with the right mix of bitterness and spiciness, neither too marked. The oil obtained from the Ogliarola variety comes from olives that mature very quickly.

The polyphenols present in olive oil not only ensure a robust and intense flavor but also preserve the oil, especially the new one, from rapid oxidation, preventing it from aging quickly and maintaining its organoleptic characteristics, including bitterness and spiciness, for a longer time. An oil without these qualities not only risks oxidizing more quickly but may also already be old.

How to Taste Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Tasting oil is a very pleasant ritual to understand the product’s goodness. Who doesn’t enjoy tasting it with bread? However, to fully understand its characteristics, the oil should be tasted and savored alone, preferably with a mouth free of other flavors. To perform this simple but useful test and choose the extra virgin olive oil to your liking, pour the oil to be tasted into a glass, either glass or plastic.

Before proceeding with the tasting, it is better to hold the container in your hands for a moment to slightly warm the oil inside to better appreciate its aromas. The oil should not be kept in the mouth but immediately aspirated and vaporized throughout the oral and nasal cavities with a technique called “Strippaggio”; this way, you can more precisely perceive the aromatic components, including bitterness and spiciness, which determine the quality and final judgment.

Antonacci’s organic extra virgin olive oil has low acidity levels and releases intense and fruity aromas that vary based on the type of cultivar used. The pungent taste typical of new oil is a sign of absolute quality and goodness: be wary of flat oils without aromatic perceptions because they could be old, poorly preserved, or obtained with non-cold pressing processes, with thermal or even chemical alterations.

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