Tasting olive oil: Dunk, sip or slurp?

Sampling olive oils
Sampling olive oils

Olive oil, unlike wine, is rarely consumed straight, butmany say that’s the best way to taste it.

American consumers typically grab a chunk of bread tosample oil before buying. Professional tasters slurp it likehot soup — a practice that’s becoming more common atlocal tasting bars, said Paso oil producer Robbie Robbins.

“Bread really masks a great part of it,” he said. “Oliveoils do have a very, very large aromatic component.”

Pour a bit of room temperature oil in a glass or bowl.Competition judges use blue glass, Robbins said, so theoil’s hue doesn’t color their judgment on taste.

Warmingthe vessel in the palm of your hand, inhale the oil’s aroma.Quality olive oil flavors range from buttery and fruityto bitter or peppery.

Follow personal preferences, withan eye toward how the oil will be used — whether withsweet or savory foods, as a finishing or for cooking.A very peppery oil, for example, could impart toomuch of its flavor when deep-frying. But it might be anamazing companion to fresh tomatoes and basil or suitedto blending in a dressing.

Taking in air when sipping helps release the complexityin the oil’s flavor. As with wine tasting, moving itaround in the mouth offers the oil’s full flavor spectrum.

“Olive oils have a different mouth feel,” Robbinsadded. “It’s a very subjective relationship with whatyou’re tasting and how you like it.”

Not sure what you like? At We Olive, shoppers cantaste more than 20 different oils, many produced in SanLuis Obispo County.

Still prefer bread or a spoon? No problem, tastingmanagers say.

“We do whatever the customer is ready to do,” saidClotilde Julien, owner of Olea Farm. “There are peopleyou cannot get to sip olive oil.”