Understanding Extra Virgin Olive Oil and its Different Intensities

Words: Crush

We know that olive oil comes in different grades, extra virgin being the highest, but it is a lesser known fact that extra virgin olive oil also comes in three different intensities — delicate, medium and intense. Understanding the intensity of EVOO is useful if you’re someone who uses olive oil to cook, bake and dress dishes and salads. The intensity of the EVOO you’re using will have an impact on the overall flavour of the dish, therefore knowing which one to use is helpful.

EVOO intensity
EVOO intensity

EVOO Intensities & When to Use Them

There are three main categories of extra virgin olive oil — delicate, medium and intense.

Understanding the intensity of EVOO is useful if you’re someone who uses olive oil to cook, bake and dress dishes and salads.

The intensity of the olive oil is determined by climate and terroir, but the most defining factors of EVOO intensity are the type of olive varietal and harvest date. Many think colour is an indicator of intensity, but the colour of EVOO is determined by the olive varietal, climate and terroir and is not directly correlated to the intensity.

Delicate

Delicate olive oils are made with late harvest olive cultivars — Arbosana, Picual and Mission. The oil is smooth and buttery with a slight fruitiness on the nose, but no bitterness at all. The overall flavour of delicate oils is subtle, therefore making them perfect for baking and cooking as the olive oil won’t impact the flavour of the dish too much.

Grapefruit Drizzle Bundt Cakes

Try it on this Olive Oil Polenta Cakes with Pink Grapefruit Drizzle


Medium

Medium olive oils are made with early and mid-harvest olives and yield a fruity taste with a grassy scent and have a peppery finish. Medium olive oils work well in vinaigrettes and are also the most popular option for bread dipping oils.Try it drizzled over this Toasted Panzanella Salad with Burrata & Thyme Vinaigrette


Intense

Intense olive oils have the strongest flavour and are commonly made using Frantoio and Leccino olives. You’ll experience a balanced bitterness with a very strong peppery finish, making intense Extra Virgin Olive Oil perfect to use as a finishing oil when you’re wanting to hero the flavour of the EVOO. Drizzle over a pasta, fresh salad or roasted vegetables for a punch of flavour. It’s also delicious drizzled over braaied meat, like steak or lamb.

Try it drizzled over this Wagyu Denver Steak Salad

Take a look at our favourite South African Extra Virgin Olive Oils from 2021.

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