Greater Pittsburgh area residents who dread serving the wrong olive oil are in luck. Dreadnought Wines, http:// http://www.dreadnoughtwines.com/, located at 2013 Penn Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh, is offering an evening olive oil tasting seminar on Tuesday, February 7, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. The ticket price is $40 per person, but seating is very limited.
Deb Mortillaro, Culinary Institute of America alumnus and executive chef, will guide attendees through a process akin to developing wine tasting skills. Budding olive oil connoisseurs can expect to learn the basics of educating their palates, essential knowledge that can be further developed through extensive tasting in the future.
Taste and smell are both used when tasting and evaluating olive oil. The sense of taste is rather limited and the human tongue can identify only a narrow range of sour, sweet, bitter, salt and umami, the taste of protein. More subtle taste nuances are a function of the sense of smell at the back of the nostrils. Like wine tasting, olive oil tasting relies on both senses and uses similar techniques.
For those who are interested in expanding their horizons but can’t make Dreadnought Wines’ tasting class, the Olive Oil Source, http://www.oliveoilsource.com/page/how-taste, outlines the fundamentals of tasting and provides a glossary of key olive oil tasting terms.
- Hold the glass in one hand and cover the top of it with the other
- Swirl the glass to release the oil’s aroma, which is contained by the covering hand
- Uncover the top of the glass and inhale deeply
- Analyze the aroma and try to recognize different notes of flavors
- Write down any impressions about the aromas
- Sip a small amount of oil while inhaling a bit of air, producing a somewhat impolite slurping noise
- Feel the oil and air emulsifying and coating the inside of the mouth
- Swallow the oil, noting any lingering sensations such as a slight peppery sting in the throat
A few of the desirable tastes in olive oil are:
- Apple, peach, pear and other fruity notes associated with specific olive varieties
- Buttery, leaving a smooth and creamy sensation on the palate
- Peppery, causing a slight tingling or stinging in the back of the throat
A few of the undesirable tastes are:
- Bacon, which can be indicative of oxidation
- Cucumber, a symptom of lengthy storage
- Winey, a sour vinegar taste caused by aerobic fermentation organisms
Fortunately, quality olive oils taste so good that extensive sampling and comparing is anything but unrelieved drudgery. Missing out on the guidance provided at the Dreadnought Wines’ event might be a disappointment, but engaging in a bit of self-education around the dining room table with a few friends could be an excellent boot camp in preparation for the next seminar.