Extra Virgin Olive Oil is similar to wine in many ways, there are thousands of cultivars, you can make an oil with a single monocultivar or a blend of several, the olives are affected by the weather, how much water and sun they receive in any year the quality of the soil, the altitude and most importantly how they are handled once picked and crushed. Unlike wine Extra Virgin olive oil does not improve with age. In this regard it is more like juicing fresh fruits and vegetables. It is at it's best immediately and then starts to decline. I recommend using extra virgin olive oils with 18-24 months of harvest date.
There are several things you can look for when selecting an exceptional bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
1. Start by looking at the bottle. It should be dark glass or tin to keep light out. Keep opened bottles sealed tightly and stored in a cool, dark spot in your pantry not by the hot stove or a bright window. I would also suggest you not pour it out of it's bottle into an open olive oil pouring can. Air and Light are olive oil's enemies.
2.Look for a Harvest date, not a best before date. A less reputable producer or distributor can pick any date as a best before date. A harvest date tells you the year and often the month the olives were harvested. A bottle is typically good if stored properly for 18-24 months from the harvest date. In the northern hemisphere olives are normally harvested from Sept - Nov and from May to July in the southern hemisphere. So you know that If the harvest date is October 2013 you have until April 2015 to a max of Oct 2015 for this oil to be at its best. You can use it after this if it has been sealed or stored in a dark space. It is not that it necessarily goes bad right away but, it loses its "mojo" it's "lifeforce" the older it gets. The levels of phenols which are powerful anti-oxidants decline, it starts to loose it's flavours and ultimately every oil will go rancid after enough time. So buy it when it is fresh from a reputable seller and buy in quantities you will use in this window of time. I cook everyday and I can use a 500ml of oil in 3-4 weeks but, you may not cook as much or use it as quickly. The point is don't save it and only use it for special occasions, use it lavishly and enjoy it!
3.Look for the name and location of the farm that produced the oil - at the very least there should be a region where the oil is produced like Tuscany, Puglia or Sicily (olives should all be from one region for the very best blends)
4: DOP or PDO, IGP or COOC (for California) designation on a bottle is a registered guarantee of place of origin. It does not guarantee quality however, the designation does imply that it is in fact a true extra virgin olive oil and not a fake. It also implies that the oil has undergone certain levels of testing to comply. Why don't all producers of real extra virgin olive oil get this designation? Not all great producers of excellent extra virgin olive oil get this designation because some have done very well on their own reputations and feel they don't need the hassle to have the Ministry involved in their business, and they don't want the cost and inspections involved in this designation. This designation is a point to consider but, don't let the DOP be your only guide when choosing an oil.
Think of oil as if you are buying a good bottle of wine. Many of us would not think it unreasonable to consider spending $30 on a great bottle of wine and it's consumed within the period of a single meal. A great bottle of extra virgin olive oil costs the same and can be enjoyed for many meals. It provides delicious taste and has added health benefits like wine. A great bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil is going to cost approximately $30 - $40 CDN.
Invest in great Extra Virgin Olive Oil the taste difference is absolutely noticeable and don't save it...use it lavishly!!