Meet Our Olive Oil Sommelier
G: What is your favourite way to use (or taste) olive oil?
M: I use extra virgin olive oil in nearly all my meals but my favourite way is to drizzle it on good sourdough toast with some ricotta, tomato and a basil leaf.
G: Did you ever think you’d end up working with olives after growing up farming?
M: I decided with a great amount of certainty that I never wanted to become a farmer after growing up on a farm in The Netherlands. I was not even very positive when my husband, John, said that he wanted to grow olives. I told him that becoming a farmer was a bad idea because they have always to deal with the weather and prices. Sometimes good but very often bad.
G: We understand you are one of Australia’s top olive oil sommeliers. What exactly is an olive oil sommelier?
M: An olive oil sommelier can identify the positive and negative qualities of olive oil. They can differentiate between good and bad oils and can identify faults. The process of becoming accredited as an olive oil sommelier can be lengthy as it takes time to develop the palette and become familiar with the nuanced aspects of olives.
G: What was your experience getting your olive oil sommelier certification?
M: I had done a few olive oil courses to learn about tasting various oils before completing the certification with Savantes. I received my certificate after a course where we were learning about all aspects of growing, harvesting, processing and storing olive oil. And a large component was about tasting, recognising and identifying the taste of the different varietals of oils that originated from all parts of the world.
G: What kind of process did you have to go through? Were you nervous?
M: There was a tasting exam. There were stations with different tests eg. identifying what country the oil was from; arranging oils in order from robust to mild; identifying the various faults. I was nervous and it was difficult to taste that many oils in one exam.
G: What does it take to make an award-winning oil?
M: An award-winning oil is produced from healthy olives, is harvested with care and processed within a short time of harvesting (to prevent fermentation from starting). What’s also important is for the oil to be processed at a low temperature and to have a short mixing time to ensure there is no damage to the oil. Finally, the correct, cool storing measures should be taken. For the best tasting experience, the oil should be consumed prior to the “best before” date.
G: What’s the best oil you've ever made? What made it so special?
M: The best oil we made was from green (not over-ripe) olives. We blended 2 varieties, Frantoio and Coratina, which made it a complex robust extra virgin olive oil. The fresh green aroma was noticeable as soon as the bottle was opened. There was a slightly bitter taste and quite a spicy finish. It seemed to add flavour to any dish, to soups, salads, roast vegetables or just straight from a spoon.
G: Can you tell us more about the various types of tasting notes in olive oil?
M: Tasting notes are usually linked to other tastes we know. We can all learn to smell and taste but most of us need to practise linking the sensation with the word.
The more common notes are:
- Aroma: Fresh cut grass, tropical fruits, green herbaceous herbs and tomato leaf
- Taste: Bitterness like rocket or endive
- Nutty favour: Almond, walnut, pinenuts
- Spicy: Black or white pepper, chilli, radish, rocket, Vietnamese mint, wasabi
G: Is there anything else you feel we and our readers should know about olive oil?
M: There is a wonderful world of smell and taste out there. Go and explore! It is exciting because there is always more to learn.
Try our Power Couple bundle today to explore the many nuances and tasting notes of EVOO.