I prefer extra-virgin olive oils with fruit and grassy notes, rather than the peppery back-of-the-throat flavors that some folks enjoy. Are there particular olive varietals that are more likely to be fruity and/or grassy? Obviously when possible I taste before buying, but in the event that I need to choose just based on bottle info, is there any way to increase my odds?

EDIT: so just to be clear, I know well some brands that meet my needs. For example, Frantoia is widely available and hits just those fruit, grassy notes. My question is more for those situations where I don't have my own supply; maybe on vacation and just need to pick a bottle among the 6 at a small town-grocery, which ain't gonna give me a taste. At that moment, do I have a better shot of getting grassy and fruit with say an arbequina vs. kalamata oil? Or is there some other method of reading the bottle that might help?

  • I've never had this problem of peppery taste. Extra-virgin olive oil in the UK tends to be imported directly from Italy or Spain and thus tends to be of highest quality. I'm not sure what the case is in the U.S.A. Saying that, I suggest you find a brand you like and stick with it.
    – Noldorin
    Aug 20, 2010 at 8:04
  • Note that peppery isn't considered a defect. Lot's of people prefer it, it just isn't my favorite. Aug 20, 2010 at 14:33
  • Regarding peppery olive oil; in and of itself is definitely not a problem. And @Noldorin, Northern California is producing some excellent olive oils these days. If you're ever in the wine country, (Napa, Sonoma, etc) don't bypass the olive presses.
    – wdypdx22
    Aug 20, 2010 at 21:20
  • @wdypdx22: I'm sure your right, though it would seem very little of it gets exported internationally (it's probably low quantity still). Plus, being European, I'm a bit of a snob here!
    – Noldorin
    Aug 21, 2010 at 22:00
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    @Noldorin - One thing about some of the California olive groves and presses -- Not low quality! I've spent time in Europe and sampled excellent olive oils in Italy, Spain, Greece. And I purchase imports here. However, there are California varieties of excellent quality. One of my favorite California olive oils is by 'Stonehouse'; but I doubt that much, if any, makes it out of the San Francisco bay area.
    – wdypdx22
    Aug 22, 2010 at 0:11

2 Answers 2


When food researchers want to compare the flavors of a food item, they assemble a group of expert tasters and train them on a controlled vocabulary to describe the many different compounds that can be detected in the food item.  Over time some of these vocabularies get standardized.  A limited vocabulary has been adopted by the International Olive Council to describe commercial olive oils and will give you a rough idea of what to expect from a brand.

To try different oils you can look for a local tasting bar (similar to wine bars) or search for “tasting notes” and “olive oil” to find postings from olive oil enthusiasts. A good place to get started with oil tasting is the olive source, which enumerates a vocabulary with short descriptions, offers tips on tasting olive oil, and lists tasting bars.

  • Very helpful links, thank you - and I'm gratified to know that grassy and fruity are considered standard terms, since they describe well what I like. I'm still not quite getting at my question though, so I think I'll edit it to clarify what circumstance I'm interested in. Aug 23, 2010 at 3:30
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    Most bottles have little information on the label. I understand that Protected Designation of Origin is not sufficient to assure variety. Given the price of some oils, I wish they indicated the main variety used, like in wines, so I would not end up with some Corantina oil. Maybe someone knows of an olive buying guide?
    – papin
    Aug 23, 2010 at 12:13

Tasting it is the only reliable way. Oil made from ripened olives is usually said to have a milder taste. Unfortunately that information is rarely on the bottle.

Also I do not trust descriptions or names like "Fruttato" much, it just differentiates varieties of the same brand.

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