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What to consider when buying olive oil

Buying an exquisite olive oil can sometimes become a bit of a challenge. The search for the perfect olive oil is like a voyage of discovery, where you are occasionally faced with choosing between different options. Supermarket shelves are stacked with bottles of olive oil from various countries, accompanied by different certificates and quality levels. To make your search easier, we have compiled a useful list of key aspects that can help you when buying olive oil.

Olive oil quality levels

In the grocery trade, two quality grades dominate above all: grade 1 "extra virgin" and grade 2 "virgin". A simple glance at the bottle labelled "extra virgin olive oil" promises the highest quality grade. Thus, this designation serves as the first indicator to choose first-class olive oil. If you want to know more about the differences between virgin and extra virgin olive oil, we recommend our guide article on "Virgin olive oil vs. extra virgin olive oil".

The origin of olive oil and the diversity of olive varieties

Imagine walking through the rolling hills of the Tuscan countryside or gazing at the sun-drenched, rocky shores of the Mani. Each bottle of olive oil carries within it the essence of the soil, climate and culture of the region from which it comes. At the same time, there is a wide range of olive varieties that can be processed into an exquisite olive oil.

Different olive varieties - focus on the Mediterranean region

The diversity of the olive world includes more than a thousand different varieties, many of which are limited to local cultivation areas and can only be found in certain villages. Well-known Mediterranean olive varieties include:

  • The Spanish varieties such as Picual (for oil), Lechin (for oil), Arbequina (for oil and table olives), Gordal (table olives), Hojiblanca (for oil and table olives) and Manzanilla (for oil and table olives).
  • The Italian varieties such as Frantoio (for oil), Leccino (for oil) and Coratin (for oil).
  • The Greek varieties such as Kalamata/Kalomon (for oil and table olives), Konservolia/Amifissis (for table olives) and Koroneiki (for oil).

Each variety is distinguished by its characteristic size, its distinctive taste and its use both as table olives and for oil. Make sure that the olive variety(ies) is/are clearly indicated on the label of the olive oil bottle. A detailed overview and comparison of our different olive oils is presented at the end of the article. There you can then see the impact of the origin and variety on the taste.

Seal of origin and organic certificate for olive oil

In the world of olive oils, seals of origin play an important role in ensuring authenticity, while organic certificates guarantee compliance with certain quality standards and production guidelines. The indication of origin for virgin and extra virgin olive oil is not only a legal requirement, but also an essential factor in assessing the quality of the oil.

This means that if the olive oil comes from an EU Member State or a third country, the Member State, EU or third country in question is listed as the origin. For all types of extra virgin and virgin olive oil (whether organic or not), it must be clearly identifiable which country the product comes from. An illustrative example of this:

Example: If it is Greek virgin or extra virgin olive oil and the cultivation, harvesting and pressing of the olives (including bottling) take place in Greece, the origin must be clearly stated on the label.

In the case of protected designation of origin, a special quality label is used. These designations, such as DOP (Italy = denominazione di origine protetta) or PDO (English = protected designation of origin), indicate the same meaning. These indications indicate that all production steps of the olive oil originate from a specific region. The German abbreviation is PDO (protected designation of origin).

An example of an olive oil with a protected designation of origin is our MANI extra virgin olive oil, Messara PDO Crete. This single-varietal organic Greek olive oil is made from olives that grow exclusively in the Messara plain on the Greek island of Crete. It therefore bears the protected designation of origin PDO.

Blending olive oils from different countries

If different countries of origin are combined in the production of virgin olive oil, this must be indicated on the label as a "blend". Depending on the origin of the blend, the following indications are possible:

  • "Blend of olive oils from the European Union" or a reference to the Union. 
  • "Mixture of olive oils from third countries" or a reference to the origin in the third country.
  • "Blend of olive oils from the European Union and third countries" or a reference to the origin in the Union and a third country.

In such cases, you may want to be sceptical about the quality of the olive oil.

Organic label for olive oil

When buying olive oil, the preference for organic olive oil is advisable in most cases. Here the consumer knows that the olive oil has been produced according to ecological standards and that no chemical fertilisers & pesticides have been used in the cultivation and care of the olive groves.

Is more than organic possible? The answer to this question is clearly yes. Besides the "standard" EU organic seal, there are other seals. Organic certified olive oil can bear different organic seals, be it the EU organic seal or specific association seals such as Naturland and Demeter. Regardless of this, everything that is sold as organic must be certified.

The EU organic label and olive oil: The EU organic logo was introduced to show consumers at a glance whether a food product has been produced according to organic standards. The European Regulation on Organic Production and Labelling of Organic Products (EU Standard 2018/848) sets out the relevant requirements in this respect.

The Naturland + Naturland Fair seal and olive oil: Naturland's standards and the associated certificate have existed for a long time and go beyond the legal EU regulations. In particular, the Naturland Fair certification combines organic farming, social responsibility and fair trade in one seal. A notable olive oil in our range that bears this seal is the Naturland + Naturland Fair certified olive oil from Mani Bläuel in Greece.

The Demeter seal and olive oil: The Demeter guidelines follow the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, the founder of anthroposophy. They strive for biodynamic cultivation in order to promote biodiversity and species diversity. Only natural fertilisers made from minerals, cow dung or herbs are used in this process. An example of an olive oil with Demeter certification in our range is the Demeter olive oil from Salamita.

Olive oil price as an indicator of quality

Last but not least, price is an important indicator when choosing olive oil. If an offer seems too cheap, you should take a critical look at all the aspects mentioned above. Remember that quality has its price. Although temptingly cheap offers may appeal, they could mean compromising on quality. Invest in a high-quality olive oil that will pamper your taste buds and benefit your health.

Overview of our olive oils

Finally, we offer you an insight into our range of olive oils and their different taste and aroma profiles, depending on the region of origin:

Name Origin Label Type Fruity Herbal Bitter Pungent
Oro Natura Andalusia Organic Lechin ★★★☆☆ ★★☆☆☆ ★★★☆☆ ★★☆☆☆
Salamita Sicily Demeter   ★★★★☆ ★★★☆☆ ★★★☆☆ ★★☆☆☆
Olymp Messinia Organic Koroneiki ★★★★☆ ★★★★☆ ★★★☆☆ ★★★☆☆
Messinia Union Messinia Organic Koroneiki ★★★☆☆ ★★★★★ ★★☆☆☆ ★★★☆☆
Messinia Union Messinia   Koroneiki ★★★☆☆ ★★★★★ ★★☆☆☆ ★★★☆☆
Kalamata Olivenöl Kalamata Organic Koroneiki ★★★★☆ ★★★★☆ ★★☆☆☆ ★★★☆☆
Mani Bläuel Mani Organic, Vegan Koroneiki ★★★★☆ ★★★★★ ★★☆☆☆ ★★★☆☆
Mani Bläuel NL Mani Organic, NL, Vegan Koroneiki ★★★★☆ ★★★★★ ★★☆☆☆ ★★☆☆☆
Mani Bläuel Messara Crete Organic, PDO, Vegan Koroneiki ★★★★☆ ★★★★★ ★★★☆☆ ★★★☆☆

With this comprehensive compilation, we aim to help you understand the multifaceted aspect of buying olive oil and find your way to an olive oil that will enrich your culinary experience and benefit your healthy lifestyle.