Do a Blind Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany

Waking up after my first night sleep at the luxurious Villa Pipistrelli in Tuscany was surreal. I stepped outside of the front door with my cup of freshly brewed Italian coffee and watched the fog burn off over the rolling hills hardly comprehending where I was. Is this a dream? No. This fantasy was actually my reality and it was only going to get better. Not only was there a breakfast spread filled with jam crostata, sliced cheese and prosciutto waiting back inside, but this morning we were participating in a blind olive oil tasting.

Could my first day in Tuscany start out any more perfect? Only if there was a large jar of Nutella in the cabinet. There was.
Tuscan Villa in Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Massimo, the farm manager at Montestigliano estate, which includes Villa Pipistrelli, started with taking the group on a tour of a small portion of the 2,000 olive trees that were scattered throughout the 2,500 acres of the estate.

There are four different varieties growing on the estate: Pendolino, Leccino, Frantoio and Moraiolo. These are blended to create Montestigliano’s spicy and lightly bitter extra virgin olive oil.

Though the plants look healthy now, in 1985 Tuscany had one week of frost that killed 90% of the olive trees. Even then, the growers continued to have faith, believing that the olive tree was sacred and its heart had not died.

It took time, but the trees flourished once again.
Olive Trees in Tuscany, Italy

Even though it was not picking season, which happens in November, they demonstrated how it would be done using a simplistic picker that looked similar to a hedge-cutter on a long stick.

After finishing 2,000 trees, this mans body surely must be vibrating on its own.
Olive Picking in Tuscany Italy

After the olives are collected they go into the granary, a store room. This stone storehouse is where we would be doing the blind olive oil tasting, a reproduction of an official olive oil panel test.

On a rustic wooden table sat four foil covered bottles labeled with the letters A thru D. Massimo poured about half an ounce of each variety into our plastic cups labeled the same as the bottles.
Blind Olive Oil Tasting in Italy

Though the glasses looked like the perfect size of a liquor shot, it is not recommended to drink it like Jaegermeister, which is good since I haven’t done a shot since 1998…that’s another story.

The olive oil tasting technique was a cross between traditional wine tasting and a coffee cupping.

First, you look at the oil to check its color. A good olive oil has to have clear color of greenish-yellow and not cloudy or orangish. Next, smell the oil to see if you can distinguish scents of defects or goodness.
Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany Olive Oil Tasting

After a big sniff, slightly warm it by holding the cup tight in your hand. Then you can taste it by slurping the oil to get air through it and then make sure it coats your mouth. This is when you can identify its distinctive attributes.

Is it bitter? Spicy? Sweet?

After every time you taste, before moving on to the next olive oil, take a drink of frizzante water and a nibble of apple to clean your palate.
Olive Oil Tasting | Annette WhiteOlive Oil Tasting

Two of the oils represented today in the blind olive oil tasting were DOP (protected origins), one was a general olive oil and the last was said to be “industrial crap”.

I ogled, smelled, slurped and tasted all four.

Letter ‘A’ was sweeter, ‘B’ was spicier,  ‘C’ had an immediate scent of acidity and ‘D’ tasted like straight vegetable oil. The last lacked color, smell and taste. It had no business on an Italian dinner table.

After noting characteristics, it was time to choose the best of the bunch. I chose ‘B’ as my favorite due to its spice and beautiful color, and so did the rest of the group.
Olive Oil Tasting in Tuscany Tuscan Olive Oil

Massimo then unveiled what was under the foil of letter B and it was the olive oil that was made from the olives in the very grove that we had stepped foot on moments ago.

The Montestigliano extra virgin olive oil was the clear winner. Now if I just had a piece of crusty bread to dip into it it would be the best food experience in the world.

 

DETAILS: Villa Pipistrelli is a luxury Tuscan villa that is part of the Montestigliano estate and located about 15 minutes Southwest of Siena in Northern Italy. Blind olive oil tasting food experience, along with many other adventures, can be arranged while staying at any of the beautiful Montestigliano Tuscan villas.
Address: Montestigliano Fraz. Brenna 53018 Sovicille (SI) Italy | Map
Website: Montestigliano Estate and Villa Pipistrelli | Contact: info@montestigliano.it

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Disclosure: I was a guest of Montestigliano, but all the words I write come straight from my, sometimes distorted, mind. Just as it should be.

 




2017-04-28T14:50:10+00:00 May 4th, 2014|Categories: Europe, FOOD, Italy, TRAVEL|Tags: , , , , |

4 Comments

  1. […] have participated in many types of tastings before: blind olive oil in Tuscany, private wine tasting in Napa Valley, tea tasting in Portland, honey tasting in Savannah and now […]

  2. […] the middle of this tiny village is where I did a blind olive oil tasting with Massimo, celebrated an Easter dinner with 70 other guests and had a delicious wood-fired pizza […]

  3. Cassie September 6, 2014 at 6:33 pm - Reply

    How fun! I did an olive oil tasting in Paso Robles one time, but it wasn’t blind. I’m a big fan of spicy olive oils… especially the ones that tickle the back of your throat.

    • Annette White September 7, 2014 at 6:54 am - Reply

      I like my oil spicy and grassy! We actually have a fabulous olive oil company in my city, McEvoy Ranch, who produce some of my favorite.

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