Last week, I was honoured to be invited by the Italian government to learn about Italian olive oil company Zucchi. The two entities have partnered to educate consumers about the quality and authenticity of olive oil standards as well as to introduce their Flavor Your Life blending program.
Tables were set in a private dining room at La Terrazza Italian restaurant in Yaletown.
This seventh-generation family owned business (founded in 1810) is currently headed by Giovanni Zucchi, Blendmaster of Olive Oils. The title may be a mouthful, however the owner believes that there’s an art to blending oils to create one special, unique oil.
During the art of blending, olives from different cultivars and with different origins are brought together to harmonize fragrances and flavours “for an end result greater than the sum of its parts”.
Giovanni and his team are dedicated to working with only the best olive growers. Each Zucchi olive oil can be traced to its origin via a QR code.
Giovanni’s also penned a book, Olive Oil Doesn’t Grow on Trees, further exemplifying extra virgin olive oil’s role in the culinary world of chefs, growers, tasters and food lovers.
Additionally, he aims to debunk the stereotype that high-quality EVOO can only come from olives grown around Mediterranean coastal regions.
August to December is the olive harvest season (in Italy, the season is shortened to October).
Oil is an essential kitchen condiment, a key ingredient in an overwhelming number of traditional dishes and innovative creations alike, invented and reinvented repeatedly.
Olive oil changes from year to year, necessitating great blending masters to keep the oils consistent. Spain is the largest olive oil producer followed by Italy and Greece.
So exactly how is EVOO classified? In order to qualify as a true extra virgin, the oil must contain less than 0.8% acidity. By comparison, virgin olive oil clocks in at 2%.
A couple of other myths: all oils have the same caloric count (there is no “lite”) and colour has absolutely no relation to quality. Also good to know: air and sun are EVOO’s two worst enemies (once bottled of course).
We sampled a few extra virgin olive oils as well as infused oils, learning best practices for tasting, including the ideal time of day to sample (morning). Pro tasters eat a piece of apple in between oils to cleanse the palate.
It’s advisable to purchase olive oil early in the year following the new harvest, then deplete your stock by year’s end. Stocking up on olive oil is a waste of money as it does have a short shelf life in comparison with canned goods.
While the olive oil continued to play the starring role, Terrazza’s culinary team came through with some beautiful appetizers, white wine and prosecco throughout the evening, adding this charming Yaletown dining spot to our to-visit list.
The ambiance too was well chosen for the event — a wine-stocked room with Italian accents, semi-domed ceiling and candle-topped white linen tablecloths all around.
The company will introduce three everyday extra virgin olive oils: 100% Italiano, a full flavoured oil, Sinfonia, a slightly sweet everyday oil and Sweet & Fruity, a complex oil ideal for both raw and cooked foods.
Zucchi plans to introduce specialty infused extra virgin olive oils to the Canadian market. Non-watermarked images by Vision Photography.