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EVOO - Spanish, Italian or Greek - is there really a difference?

Went shopping yesterday at Whole Foods. While a lot of their items are expensive, if you know the market prices, there are bargains to be had (best cheese prices in my town!). Anyway, I needed some EVOO. Their house brand, 365, had a 32 oz. bottle for $7.99, a pretty good deal in my neighborhood. They gave you the choice of Spanish, Italian or Greek - is there really a difference in taste? I was stumped and chose the Italian but am curious if Spanish or Greek is really different in taste? TIA for all answers!

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  1. Uh... yeah not just among National versions but within National regions. Olive Oil has as much variation as wines and there are definite terroir influences beyond varieties. The same type of Green Olive that was historically grown in Guadalupe Valley (Baja California) & in Santa Maria Valley (California)... tastes different to the palette.... but you really need to sip them from a glass to really appreciate them.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Eat_Nopal

      There is a difference in taste foor the real italian, greek and spanish olive oil. The problem is that it is difficult to spot which one is really italian, greek and spanish! In this article the author discusses about the differences (if any) and what you need to look to
      http://www.all-about-olive-oil.com/it...

    2. I usually find high quality Spanish and Greek olive oils to have a fruitier taste than most of the Italian olive oils I've tried. I like a really green oil with a strong, fruity flavour, so I usually choose Greek or Spanish over Italian oils.

      As far as I know, most olives are grown in Spain and Greece, so many Italian olive oils are made of Spanish or Greek olives anyways.

      4 Replies
      1. re: phoenikia

        Actually I think its Spain & Trukey that produce the bulk... lots of stuff gets labeled as Italian that is blended... Spain & Turkey also have fine olive oils... but are usually known for their bulk stuff.

        If you like really green tasting Olive Oil look no further than California (both Alta & Baja) for what you want... I find it okay.. but personally really like peppery Sicilian oils.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          I was curious, turns out you're correct that Spain and Turkey produce the most olive oil (Greece is 3rd) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olive_oil

          I really enjoyed the Californian olive oil my cousin brought me a couple years ago, but it's actually quite difficult to find up here in Canada;) Much easier for us to find the European products in our stores.

          Completely agree, the Sicilian oils are very nice.

        2. re: phoenikia

          <so many Italian olive oils are made of Spanish or Greek olives anyways.>

          That's a marketing ploy. Italian oil is more sought after. Friends who import oil said to read the label carefully. BOTTLED IN ITALY means the oil likely came from Spain, Turkey etc.
          GROWN IN ITALY is the real thing. Also, the bottle should be dark-colored.

          1. re: pdxgastro

            I know several people (including myself) who seek out higher quality regional Greek & Spanish olive oils over Italian. And I have a good friend who prefers French oils from Provence.

            My preference would be Cretan (GFK), then Peloponnesian (GRK), then Spanish, then Italian, then French. Haven't used any Turkish oils.

            I don't think you can generalize that one nation's olive oil is the "real thing".

        3. All olive oils taste different -- some slightly, some quite a bit. Not only are there differences in "terrior" but also different producers use different varieties of olives, and olives taste different at different times in the harvest cycle. As other people have noted, country of origin may or may not be any indicator of what that particular olive oil tastes like. Next time, when your bottle is getting low, buy a new one before it's all gone and taste them side by side -- they you'll begin to get a feeling for what some of the differences are.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            There's also differences due to harvest methods. We went on a tour of Puglia in southern Italy this fall, and one of our guides grew up on an olive oil farm in Tuscany. In Tuscany, they harvest the olives by suspending nets beneath the trees and mechanically shaking them to make the olives drop. Then they process the olives immediately. In the south, they use less expensive methods to harvest olives, often suspending nets beneath the trees and waiting for the olives to drop on their own. Our guide maintained that when they processed the olives this way, some of them had been sittting on nets for up to a week and could contribute rancid notes to the oil. The least expensive method was to not even use nets but to just let the olives drop to the ground and rake them up out of the dirt.

            1. re: Nettie

              Funny how people have different perspectives...in Sorrento we toured a small family-run olive grove and press. They had the nets suspended under the trees, into which the olives mostly dropped naturally (as I recall--I am sure there was some mechanical gathering too, but i don't remember that). Their southern perspective was that the Tuscan growing season is so much shorter, that in Tuscany the olives are picked greener and make a sharper oil. And you know, their oil did taste much smoother to me than most Italian olive oils.

          2. Taste them yourself and judge for yourself.

            Understand that, if you are using it in cooking, it may not make as much of a difference as straight-on.

            Further, since you should dilute the EVOO in salad dressings with a neutral oil anyway. Barbara Kafka and other food writers talk pointedly about the habit of Americans (and many American chefs) to choose EVOOs that overwhelm salad greens and failing to dilute them properly.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Karl S

              It would be hard to find a restaurant in Greece, Italy or Spain diluting the EVOO in their salad dressings....sounds like a very French approach to me;)

              Who says you should dilute the EVOO with a neutral oil, besides Barbara Kafka? Just curious;)

              1. re: phoenikia

                It's something I've read from time to time, she's just the most memorably emphatic about it.

                I should add that my tastebuds, for what they are worth, confirm that judgment. I had never diluted mine until I tried it out. Now I almost always do (except when I have a very mild EVOO).

                1. re: Karl S

                  Once again Barbara and I disagree on something. Now, I very seldom make up a vinaigrette and then toss the salad with it, preferring to offer it as one of several choices, and more commonly I just put the components out and let people roll their own. My personal favorite combo is a good dowsing of the peppery Di Ceccho oil and a dash of red vinegar, plus a little salt and pepper. I'm IN IT for that flavor - why on earth would I want to dilute it?

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    I agree -- if you don't want it to be overpowering, just use less of it and make sure it's balanced by the other ingredients. You shouldn't be drowning your salads in oil anyway.

                2. re: phoenikia

                  It really depends upon the salad you are making. Some salads work well with EVOO, others require a more neutral oil. If you are making a vinaigrette with white wine or champagne vinegar, for instance, it can be overwhelmed by a strong flavored extra virgin olive oil, while dressings made with red/basalmic vinegar hold up better to EVOO.

                  1. re: DanaB

                    Yeah, i think it's a matter of taste, and what you're used to. I'm of greek heritage, and no way would be dilute our salads with any other oil, but working in restaurants made me realize just how potent evoo is, for instanses, if dressing a beet salad with a vin. made with just olive oil, realy empowers the taste of the beets and the herbs, but when cooking for my family it's still olive oil all the way. and if u ask any greek they'll tell u there's nothing better than greek olive oil. i personally perfer the olive oil from crete.. just the colour alone turns me on!lol

                3. re: Karl S

                  Karl S, does this (non-overwhelming) olive oil sentment go hand-in-hand with your dislike of over-use of vinegar in dressings? I stand with you on the overuse of vinegar when inappropriate, but cutting very good oil with a neutral, non tasty oil in a heat-less situation? What is the objective? Less flavor? So curious.

                  Cay

                  1. re: cayjohan

                    Yes. If the dressing dominates the taste of the ingredients, it's too much. But I realize many people treat ingredients more as a vehicle for the dressing rather than the dressing as a condiment for the ingredients. Americans tend to prefer BIG! BOLD! flavors for a variety of reasons.

                4. If its cheap and it tastes good to you, then go with it. Does it really matter that much where it is grown? I take all my EVOO and put it into this nice bottle I bought years ago, It says Olive Oil on one side and Italy on the other, has a nice flip top stopper on it also. This is why I do so, so many people look at fine oils and think Italy, so I give them the match in thier heads and everyone is happy. When guests come over they look at the bottle and go "Where did you get this" ? I tell them that a nice old man from Sicily gave it to me years ago and I refill it always with the Oils from his region. Ha !!!