What is the Difference Between Extra-Virgin and Virgin Olive Oil?

As consumers it can be very confusing to understand terms placed on olive oil labels. The following is a list of common technology used in the olive oil industry. Remember, you can always ask us (by email to info@carterandcavero.com) if you have a particular question about a term or anything olive oil related, which is not on this blog or on Carter & Cavero’s website (www.carterandcavero.com).

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL – Simply the best olive oil you can purchase from a health and taste point of view. Both extra virgin and virgin olive oils are those derived solely by a physical process. They are the actual 100% juice obtained by pressing olives, with no other additives or preservatives whatsoever. Once virgin olive oil is obtained it is graded as either extra virgin or virgin depending on its chemical and organaleptic (aroma & flavor) characteristics. Extra virgin olive oil is the term given to an olive oil which has perfect chemical characteristics as well as healthy organaleptic characteristics (no negative flavors or aroma). This is important because a damaged or deteriorated olive oil will not only have an unpleasant flavor and aroma, but also a significantly lower content of oleic acid. This oleic acid is crucial from a health perspective because it contains HDL (high-density lipoprotein which lowers cholesterol) and tocopherols which are vital in fighting diseases such as cancer and osteoarthritis by working against the free radicals implicated in these diseases. It is a widely held opinion that consumers that purchase olive oil for health reasons and/or taste should insist on Extra Virgin olive oil.

VIRGIN OLIVE OIL – Like extra virgin olive oil, virgin olive oil can only be obtained by physical means. It is the 100% natural fruit juice of the olive. Unlike extra virgin oil, however, virgin olive oil lacks the qualities to qualify chemically (i.e. more than 1% acidity) or organoleptically (has negative flavors or aromas present). The reason olive oils do not qualify as extra virgin or why they develop negative flavors, aromas or characteristics are due to poor production or harvest conditions. The main reasons are poor farming practices, transportation, milling or storage of the olive oil and/or unusual weather conditions. Producing high quality extra virgin oil requires the producer to reach perfection in every stage of the process, as well as be fortunate with Mother Nature. This is often more expensive for producers to accomplish, which is why some excellent extra virgin olive oils can cost more than other extra virgin and virgin olive oils.