In Italy, as in the other EU countries, the EC Regulation 796/2002 is applied to the classification of olive oils. The classification is based on both chemical and sensory analysis of olive oil.
The panel of tasters is made up of 8-10 people who will have to test the samples and give a score for each of the attributes whose presence and intensity is assessed. The attributes are divided into two macro categories: positive and negative (also called defects).
The positive attributes include fruitiness, bitterness and spiciness, while among the negatives the choice of possible defects is wider. They range from rancid, to musty, from winey to metallic, from muddy to the “worm flavour” and so on. Each negative attribute refers to one or more problems that occurred during the production process.
At the end of the evaluation, the oil can be classified according to the average score of the negative and positive parameters, the final classification of the oil will take place:
- Extra Virgin olive oil: average of negative parameters equal to 0 and average of positive parameters greater than 0;
- Virgin oil: average of defects between 0 and 2.5 and average of positive parameters great-er than 0;
- Lampante oil (inedible – send to refining): average defects> 2.5.
It is interesting to point out that, based on the EEC Regulation no. 2568/91, to obtain the Extra Virgin de-nomination, an oil is required to respect both the chemical-physical parameters and those of the sensory classification. On the contrary, it will have to be downgraded to virgin oil or even lampante (inedible)oil.
In addition to the Extra Virgin wording, an oil could have an additional European designation on the label linked to their territorial origin (PDO or PGI). In this case, in order to use this denomination, the oils are subjected to a further sensory evaluation which aims to confirm the specific sensory characteristics of the denomination. In Italy there are about 50 specialized panels on PDO and PGI olive oil.