What Does 'Extra Virgin' Mean in Olive Oil?

Extra virgin olive oil is the highest grade of olive oil, celebrated for its superior flavor, aroma, and nutritional benefits. It is extracted from the first cold pressing of the olives, which means it’s made using mechanical means without the use of heat or chemicals. This process helps preserve the oil’s natural flavors, vitamins, and antioxidants.

What Does 'Extra Virgin' Mean?

The designation "extra virgin" isn't just a fancy label—it's a guarantee of quality. Olive oils labeled as extra virgin must meet specific international standards, including:

  • Acidity Level: Extra virgin olive oil must have a free acidity, expressed as oleic acid, of no more than 0.8 grams per 100 grams.
  • Sensory Flaws: It should be free from sensory flaws. This is determined through taste tests by certified panels; the oil must be found to have a perfect taste with no defects.
  • Antioxidant Content: High levels of polyphenols, which contribute both to the oil’s health benefits and its shelf life, are a hallmark of well-produced extra virgin olive oil.

First Cold Pressed vs. Extra Virgin

While "extra virgin" refers to the quality and purity of the oil, "first cold pressed" describes the method of extraction. Here’s how they differ:

  • First Cold Pressed: This term means the olive oil was mechanically extracted from the olives without heat. However, this doesn’t necessarily qualify the oil as extra virgin; the oil still needs to meet chemical and sensory standards to earn the extra virgin label.
  • Extra Virgin: This term not only refers to the first cold pressing but also includes additional quality criteria like low acidity, no defects, and high antioxidant levels. Essentially, all extra virgin olive oil is first cold pressed, but not all first cold pressed oil qualifies as extra virgin.

Masseria’s Commitment to Quality

At Masseria, we partner with producers who are just as obsessed as we are about quality and upholding traditional techniques:

  • First Cold Pressed and Extra Virgin: Our oil is extracted at temperatures that never exceed the standard for cold pressing, maintaining the integrity of the oil’s flavor and nutritional content. Our olive oil meets all the stringent requirements to not only be labeled extra virgin but also certified USDA organic, ensuring both top-notch flavor and health benefits.
  • Mono-Cultivar and Single Source: Each batch is made using only one type of olive, Nocellara Etnea, sourced from the same estate. This not only ensures consistency and purity but also a distinctive flavor profile that is traceable and unique.
  • Organic and High Polyphenol: We adhere to regenerative and organic farming practices that ensure our oil is free from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Our high polyphenol content means our oil is not just healthy, but also has a longer shelf life due to the natural antioxidants.

Conclusion

Understanding what "extra virgin" means in olive oil is crucial for anyone looking to enhance their cooking and their health. With Masseria, you are guaranteed an olive oil that is not only extra virgin but also embodies the highest standards of purity, flavor, and health benefits. Whether you’re drizzling it over a salad, cooking your favorite dish, or even using it in a marinade, Masseria’s extra virgin olive oil brings a touch of flavor and health to every meal.