Today, as we track the progress of our precious oil through bottling and labelling, we finished this lovely bottle of Cretan EVOO. Without any of our own oil this last year, we have tried a fair few.
It’s the best we have found at the Malmesbury, purchased for £6 for 500ml at Waitrose. It is in a dark glass, bottle, with a pourer that we really liked. All good so far.
It was bottled by a Greek company named GAEA. They don’t grow or mill the olives, but work with a series of olive producers and community mills.
The one we bought was from the Sitia region of Crete, made by members of a co-operative part of the Sitia PDO. PDO is a guarantee of quality, as there is a strict regime that checks the entire food chain from its origin and variety of the olives that makes it.
The label states it is “cold pressed” which we sincerely doubt, as very few quality oils are made using the old fashioned press.
The use of “cold-press” as a term is obsolete. The EU’s marketing standards legislate against its use for oils produced in modern mills. So, at best, if the term is accurate, and the oil is produced in a press, then this would be a low quality oil to be avoided. At worst, the use of this term is a marketing trick, designed to evoke a more traditional, romantic notion of olive oil production, and is both misleading and illegal.
In fact a bit of research on-line reveals that after the GAEA Sitia “olives are picked and washed, the 9000 small farms of the Sitia Cooperative — the farmers share ownership with GAEA — bring their olives to 23 community mills” where “steel blades at the mill crush the olives immediately.”
The co-operative’s alliance with GAEA is undoubtedly providing these Cretan producers with stability and a higher income, so a big thumbs up for this oil ethically (Tom Mueller, in his excellent book, Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil, wrote in positive terms about another GAEA co-operative in eastern Crete, Kritsa, where there is the highest pro-capita consumption of olive oil in the world, a whopping 50l per year as compared to 1l per year in the UK.)
Back to this tasty oil, it is labelled as green and fruity, and slightly peppery. The first description, if it as a colour, is not in itself an indicator of quality, green can be introduced in a lab, and some golden oils are prize winning. An oil can taste green, and this one does, its fruity flavour is green, and this is a quality that official oil tasters qualify and quantify when they are required to panel test whether an oil is extra virgin.
Alivu’s qualified tasters (that’d be me and Paolo) confirm it is indeed fruity, pleasantly so, we’d give it a 3. The bitterness is less pronounced , a 2 at best, and the third quality, peppery, we’d give it a 1. We didn’t note any defects, and we have had two bottles in the last 6 months. So at £6 for 500ml we think this is a good buy.
Happily, we won’t need to buy it for a while, because ours will be shortly on its way! This time I will try very hard not to sell the last of our oil to the good people of Malmesbury.