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A quick lesson in olive oil terminology

The olive oil market is very competitive and tricksy marketers sometimes like to bamboozle customers with inaccurate or meaningless terminology. Don’t be bamboozled: here is everything you need to know to know better.

The absolutely key fact is that all the best olive oil is ‘extra virgin’ and ‘first cold press’. Fullstop. No exceptions. Both terms have very specific meanings.

‘Extra virgin’ means the oil has the lowest possible acidity (less than 0.8%) and the highest proportion of polyphenols which are the anti-oxidants so beneficial to health; it is the highest grade oil with the best flavour.

‘First cold press’ refers to the way the olives are treated at the mill; in first cold press, they are pressed without the aid of heat or chemicals (both of which extract more oil but of a lower quality) – it is solely the mechanical force of the press which extracts the oil from the olives. Some producers will re-press the olive paste from the first press to make a second or even third press of lower grade oil (Nudo never does this).

‘Virgin olive oil’ is the next grade down from extra virgin and refers to oil with an acidity of less than 1.5%. Some of it is ok but you’re on the downhill slope.

‘Pure olive oil’ or just ‘olive oil’ are the lowest of the heap and contain partially refined oil. You’re probably better off using a sunflower oil.

'DOP' The other term worth knowing, though it applies only to European olive oil, is DOP. It stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta and is an accolade given to a quality product made in a specific local area. It is the European Union’s way of trying to protect great traditional products and methods. DOP is also used for cheeses, prosciutto, wines and many other products.

And that’s it! You are now as label-savvy as the best of them.