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Olive Oil is still a “Slippery Business”
The trade continues to be fraught with lies and deceit. I happen to have a really good palate for olive oil as I have been consuming olive oil from great producers for over 2 decades and selling it at retail or wholesale since 2005. I have given hundreds of seminars on the subject and I make a point to specifically sample olive oil at trade shows and specialty shops around the Western US and Hawaii so that I know exactly what is available to consumers. It is not a pretty picture.
It still amazes me what you see on the shelves of grocery stores considering the publicized controversies associated with the trade. Even more amazing is the whining from commercializers who for decades knowingly doctored their oils with seed oils and worse. Producers who served up the most unhealthy refined oils imaginable as EVOO now feel like they are being unfairly treated.
Recently one Spanish bottler whose label claims the contents are Spanish olive oils but in fact recently was caught blending oil from North Africa that was graded as Lampante (lamp oil) into their product. How these scam artists are still best sellers in the American marketplace amazes me.
It is not just the European commercializers the biggest names in California are at best produce mediocre olive oils that are flabby and tasteless. The biggest now blends Spanish olive oil into it’s bottlings to boost it’s flavor. At the last 2 winter fancy food shows I have made a point to sample the oils of California’s #2 grocery store brand and I was shocked at how poor all 3 of the varietals were that they were sampling at the booth.
Don’t get me wrong there are some very good California producers like “Chacewater” from Lake County who work with more vibrant varietals and have better production facilities but for the most part just like the better European producers you don’t see them on grocery shelves.
Olive Oil Specialty Shops… for the most part they are terrible, mostly bulk oils, sometimes just as bad as the major brands in the grocery and overpriced. For god sake don’t sample anything out of the stainless steel tanks called fustis. At the very least give it a good nose first and if it smells the least bit funky rest assure they haven’t cleaned the fusti for a while!
Refined oils including those labeled as simply “olive oil”, “pure olive oil”, light olive oil” and “olive oil pomace” are all refined oils, not olive oil by any stretch of the imagination. European tasting panels would rate them as Lampante and not fit for human consumption.
Sad thing is, a lot of the oils on shelves today that claim to be Extra Virgin Olive Oil are not any closer to being genuine than these pseudonyms.