Does Extra Virgin Olive Oil Lose Its Virginity?

Does Extra Virgin Olive Oil Lose Its Virginity?

Unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with time. And while many might wonder how long an extra virgin olive oil will stay extra virgin, there are too many moving parts for a simple answer.

How long does an extra virgin olive oil stay that way?

This question is first asked by olive oil producers who would display ‘Best By Date’ information on their label. And then, by retailers and buyers (consumers included) who would also like to have a reasonable answer.

Well, as usual, the answer is: It depends. And it causes consternation in everyone that there is no straight, simple answer.

First, as we well know, olive oils are very different. Their antioxidant content, usually measured as polyphenols, varies greatly among olive oils, as much as two- to three-fold. These polyphenols are not only beneficial to human health, they also contribute to an olive oil’s longer shelf-life.

There are also “filtered” and ”unfiltered” olive oils in the market, with proponents of one or the other arguing endlessly about their merits. Filtration removes residual vegetation water from the oil, as well as any fine sediment remaining from the olive fruit. However, if water or sediment is left in contact with the oil, in a short time the oil quality will suffer. That’s why “unfiltered olive oils” is meant to be consumed soon after harvest: in three to six months at the latest.

However, if the same oil had been “filtered” the same oil can sustain its extra-virginity very likely for a year and a half.

Secondly, storage conditions, either in the warehouse, store shelf or kitchen pantry will shorten the lifespan of an olive oil’s extra virgin status. Two major culprits are light exposure and exposure to high temperatures

But a major trigger of quality decay is air contact, which results in oxidation.

In conclusion, let’s not be misguided by overly promising Best By Dates.

Follow the advice of keeping the olive oil stored in a cool, dark place. Once opened, use the oil promptly. Do not buy big jugs that will not be consumed within weeks after opening. And, of course, the olive oil must be a good extra virgin oil to begin with, at the mill.