…and your olive oil by its label. “The more details, the better. If a bottle only says ‘Extra virgin, first cold pressed, product of Italy,’ then the consumer has no idea what’s actually in the bottle,” explains Coleman. Look out for misleading labels using Nicholas Coleman’s three indicators of good quality olive oil:
1. Harvest Date: “Freshness is crucial to quality. Any legitimate producer will have a harvest date on their bottle.” Olive oil should be consumed within a year of production. If the bottle does not indicate the date of production—a bottling date doesn’t count!—it’s a sign the oil might lack health benefits and flavor.
2. Olive Cultivar: “The cultivar is the type of olive the oil is composed of. Similar to grapes, there are hundreds of olive cultivars, each with its own unique attributes and flavor.” To make more informed choices, get to know your olives and how the oil affects your food’s flavor.
3. Region: “It’s not enough for an oil to be from one country. The best EVOO comes from a single estate or specific appellation.” Avoid bottles with vague sourcing on their labels: if the origin is an entire country (or worse, multiple countries), it usually means the oil is industrially produced and low quality. An exact place of origin indicates legitimate, well-grown olives.