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Olive oil is full of flavor and fragrance

April 24, 2005

Wine lovers might be familiar with the French term "terroir," which literally means soil. The concept also applies to olive oil. Terroir refers to the geographic and environmental conditions that influence the finished product, including soil, altitude, sun exposure, incline and water drainage in the growing area.

Olive oil aficionados often enjoy tasting and comparing the varietals and flavors in a process similar to that used to evaluate wine. To taste oil you do not need any expert knowledge. It's as easy as using nose and taste buds.

First, examine aroma and taste. With the best olive oils, you should be able to detect the fresh, fruity aroma, and nuances of flavor.

Before tasting, take a few sniffs of the oil to take in that aroma. Cut small cubes of bread and then dip a piece of bread into each oil, to taste. Sipping water between tastes is good, but better still is to take small bites of apple.

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Experts use many different terms to describe olive oil's flavor and fragrance. Here's a short list to start with:

n Peppery is the term used to describe a bite in the back of the throat.

n Bitter is similar to the taste of green olives. It's a positive term; a bitter characteristic can be more intense or biting, or more mellow.

n Fruity is reminiscent of the odor of ripe, fresh fruit. These oils are best used uncooked, perhaps over fresh vegetables or for a salad dressing.

n Ripe also refers to a fruity taste that comes from ripe olive, and is usually mild and sweet.

n Sweet describes a pleasant, but not sugary taste, often found in mellow oils. Almond flavor is associated with sweet oils with a flat scent, which work well in dessert recipes.

- Associated Press

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