I have to confess that I bought Napolina’s standard Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) for my first tasting session last December, held with Malmesbury’s Women’s Business Network, in our local Co-op shop for £3.75 for 500ml as the standard low-quality cheap oil, presenting it alongside Alivu’s handpicked EVOO, and the Sainsbury’s DOP suspecting that the Napolina EVOO would be the bland one.
However, I wasn’t prepared for how rough it would be. Especially as ‘Which’ magazine voted this oil one of the best buys in the country in 2011.
Napolina has a lovely Italian sounding name, and its website emphasises the company’s Italian roots. Now Napolina is 100% owned by The Prince group, which in turn owns several well known brands such as Branston, Cross & Blackwell as well as several oil brands you may have heard of: Olivia; Mazola; Flora; Crisp and Dry. It has its HQ in Liverpool but the Olive Oil is bottled at ‘Edible oils’ bottling plant in Belvedere, which is not on the banks of the Tiber but on the Thames, near the Cross Ness Sewage treatment works in Greater London. Who says there is no romance in food ay?
So who owns Princes foods? Apparently it is 100% owned by Mitsubishi Corporation, Japan’s largest trading company.
The bottle claims that the oil is produced with 100% EU olives. More on that another time.
So back to the taste test. Can anyone recall the list I wrote in my previous blog on how to determine whether your olive oil is likely to be any good, even before you have tasted it?
Next you taste to identify defects and qualities. If the defects are serious, even if there are qualities present, a tasing panel will reject the oil as Extra Virgin.
I ran through the steps of tasting our oil with the group. Warm, sniff, sip and slurp, swallow and breath out through your nose. I described what they should be looking for: the fruity smell, the bitter taste, the spicy kick as you swallow and another fruity whiff as you breath out at the end. I didn’t describe the defects, I wanted to see if the could detect tgem without my help. If you have never tasted an oil straight you may not appreciate how a defect jumps right out at you.
Having explained what to do my group of 8 tasters, who were all doing this for the first time, we tasted the three oils blind. The oils were held in small transparent cups although, as I have explained before, colour is not a good indication of taste or quality. The cups were colour coded so I could track which one we were tasting.
Some preferred the Alivu Oil to the Sainsbury’s Sicilian DOP (I will be evaluating this next time) but they all universally condemned Napolina and were all surprised when I revealed which brand it was, and that I had only just bought and opened the bottle.
Our observations included that the oil looked rather thin when swirled around in our tasting glasses. Participants said: the oil smelt of paint stripper or petrol; it was unpleasant; it smelt of oil, this last comment was the most positive. It tasted bitter, in theory a quality, but if the bitter is unpleasant, leaving your mouth goopy and sticky, it is the bitterness associated with a defect. It burned a little bit in the throat. It didn’t have a fruity taste. This was the groups opinion.
What we had detected was a serious defect; rancidity. The oil was old and off. Rancid is the most obvious of defects. It is the smell of dusty, musty, oxidised fat. You can smell it, taste it and it’s strong in your retro smell. Its closest association is paint stripper. This gives it a high score on the defects. In terms of its qualities:
I can’t recommend this to you I’m afraid, not even for cooking in. Sorry Mitsubishi Corporation. There is no poetry in your oil. And it tastes grim.