Pure or not quite so pure. You can't tell just by looking. Looks can be deceptive and you may already have preconceived ideas that could lead you into erroneous judgement.
You've got to get close and sniff. A good deep inhalation. Do you get green? Do you get grassy? Maybe even something a little fruity? That's a good sign.
Take a sip...yes, a sip...can't face that, eh? I understand, though to really do it properly, you do have to swig, swill and swallow. No? OK, then, take a chunk of plain white bread - no tasty, wholewheat stuff - just plain white bread. Dip it, really soak it. And taste it.
What do you get? If it's anything between a tickle and a coughing fit, we could be onto a winner. Peppery, spicy, something with a bit of a kick like a chilli? Oh, yes - this is good, this is good.
Olive oil tasting is as much of an art as wine tasting. And flavours can differ almost as widely. A key difference, that I hadn't realised until I came to live in an olive-growing area, is that unlike grapes, olives don't come in different colours - black olives are green olives that have ripened. I had always assumed that, like grapes, the colour of the olive was a difference of type, not age. There are different types of olive - grown in different parts of the world but all will start off a greeny colour and will ripen to a blacky colour.
And the greener the oil, if it's a good quality extra-virgin olive oil, then the stronger the likelihood that the olives were picked early in the harvesting season - sometime between October and November - definitely before Christmas. It is this oil that produces a greeny, grassy/fruity-scented, peppery oil that is unlike much of what is for sale in supermarkets.
OK, I'm no expert.
However, I am learning! And this is thanks to the wonderful Antonio - who knows everything and everybody around here (and loves to learn English) - a local olive oil producer was recently introduced to us. He has an olive oil conference coming up and needs an interpreter as delegates are coming from as far away as Australia, Japan and South Africa. He came to see us at the weekend, bringing with him three large bottles of his oil, and FR is most happy to take the on the job. He loves anything to do with olives - from the beautiful wood to the stones that are burned in latest heating devices - and is at this moment having a tour of the olive oil factory with the producer, very happy about this turn of events.
We did a proper tasting of the three oils and were amazed at just how very different each of them was - so much so that we went on to try, in a similar way, all the oils we had in our house. Like wine, they all have a their own distinct taste and flavour.
The olive picking season this year has been early as the weather has been good all over the Christmas season - there has hardly been a day when the tractors, land rovers and trucks haven't been out in the fields along with a majority of the inhabitants of the town. Let's hope this means a good year for olive oil.
We have had many different tractors parked around out house in recent months but I was really rather taken with this one...I've become a tractor-fancier! I'm just so sorry I didn't get a photo of one I saw a couple of weeks ago - it was a Lamborghini and it was gorgeous.
So - watch out for more olive oil tips on this blog - how to tell virgin from extra-virgin (it's the acidity level that decides it), how to store it, use and of course, a bit of a plug for 'our' olive oil region and maybe a bit of competition bashing. The Spanish are rather green on the marketing front, unlike the Italians, who think they invented olive oil - ha!. As you may guess, the Italian stuff is mostly adulterated and violated and impure! Probably....