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In the still restricted panorama of Extra virgin olive oil experts, Alicia Moya, Chilean, is one of the most authoritative and well-known figures. Alicia is not only a sommelier but also an agronomist and, as such, she has complete knowledge of the entire supply chain.
Alicia trains future EVOO oil tasters, is a judge in the most prestigious international competitions and spreads the culture of Extra virgin olive oil also in her interesting Instagram profile @frutadoliva.
In this interview, Alicia offers her qualified experience to the consumer very useful advice for an informed choice.
When did you start approaching the world of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and when did you decide to specialize in the matter to turn it into a profession?
The world of EVOO knocked on my door many years ago. I didn’t look for it. It was not in my academic records, nor in my professional plans. In 2000, a Chilean company invited me to do an olive oil production project in Chile. It was a beautiful time of many dreams and desires and there a window opened, which later became a door and, finally, a sensory world that I fell deeply in love with. That project didn’t come true in the end but it was enough for me to decide that the EVOO is my true calling and would be my great life partner.
When I have classes or business meetings where I have to talk about EVOO, I feel that my eyes sparkle and the passion for liquid gold penetrates my skin and gives conviction to each of my words. A job that, after many years, still excites me today.
As an agronomist, what added value does your knowledge bring to the olive oil sector?
We are currently aware of issues that we did not previously evaluate as a society such as sustainability, ecological balance, maintaining the ecosystem, giving greater value to nature without damaging it. This reflection is closely linked to the way of life of the new generations who give more and more importance to a rational, balanced and natural diet.
Being an agronomist allowed me to convey the poetry of the olive tree, in all its expressions. A generous and rustic crop that does not have great pretensions to express its soul, which does not alter the ecosystem, which does not have major diseases, which is not as demanding in water as other crops and which coexists with the flora and fauna in its habitat natural, which gives life to a unique and complete food such as EVOO oil.
My mission, as an agronomist, is to convey to the consumer that EVOO is a portion of packaged nature, which reaches our tables to delight the senses, offering multiple benefits for our health and well-being.
There is still little knowledge of the world of EVOO. Consumers believe they can buy any extra virgin olive oil and that this choice does not make a difference. Can you explain why this is not the case and why “making olive oil” requires complex skills and methods?
EVOO is a living and natural product. Which should have placed on the shelves in the location of natural fruit juices. An average consumer does not know the difference between an olive oil and an Extra virgin. There is a lack of education, there are no dissemination programs to show the benefits and it is through tasting and tasting the best way to educate the consumer. For me, this is the key to making new consumers fall in love and not the concept of acidity, which the consumer does not understand and which in the end repeats without knowing its meaning.
It is not enough to be Extra virgin or to have a low acidity. Harmony, balance and complexity are sought between flavors and aromas. Its attributes such as bitterness and spiciness should be perfectly aligned. It is a composition of attributes, which are defined by intrinsic factors such as the variety of the olive tree, the time of harvest, the extraction process and the cellar.
The tree produces Extra virgin olive oil, it depends on the producer that what is packaged maintains the Extra virgin seal.
That’s a great question. I will give some tips that will be interesting that can help.
- Always choose EVOO, or Extra virgin olive oil.
- Choose the olive oil from the latest harvest.
- Choose the newest packaged bottle from the date of purchase Olive oil loses its attributes and personality over the course of the year and dies. Therefore, having a recent packaging date means that it has been stored in stainless steel tanks in the cellar, where all the optimal conditions are maintained to keep its essence intact and that the deterioration is minimal. Olive oil should preferably be consumed during the 12 months of packaging.
- Do not buy an EVOO for its packaging. Many times we fall in love with a bottle and pay more for it, thinking that the oil will be amazing and it isn’t.
- Choosing an organic oil is not a guarantee that it is an excellent EVOO oil or that it cannot have defects. An organic oil follows the same deterioration curve as a conventional EVOO. Certainly, organic EVOO oil defends itself from traditional because no chemicals (no fertilizers or pesticides) have been applied to the crop in the field but in the EVOO extraction process there is no difference between conventional or organic.
- Having the ability to buy directly from the producers.
What is missing in the world of EVOO oil, according to your experience, to establish itself definitively with respect to the industrial product and acquire the same prestige as wine?
Without a doubt, today the consumer is closer to the world of the olive tree. During the pandemic, she/he learned how to use a better EVOO for cooking at home and per capita consumption has increased but it is still an ingredient in her/his diet not associated with a sensory experience, as wine did very well.
EVOO oil is an excellent companion at the table and must arrive in its original container, as well as the bottle of wine, where we can enjoy it from aperitif to dessert, motivating its versatility and elegance.
The wine did the job well and I think EVOO should have marketing campaigns that convey all the beneficial and culinary properties it has. To give the value of a 100% natural, healthy and tasty product that enhances the qualities of all types of food.