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Tuscan olive oil

Itinerary to discover the Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. How to recognize and regulate production.


Tuscan extra virgin olive oil tastingAlways the olive tree, together with the vine, characterizes the most typical Tuscan landscape, with its centuries-old history that has its roots in the age of medieval Municipalities and continues in the Renaissance.
The "renaissance of the olive tree" in this century coincides with its protection at the community level, together with the necessary enhancement and promotion of Tuscan extra virgin olive oil.


The quality
Virgin olive oil has two fundamental characteristics that distinguish it from other vegetable oils: it is obtained from a fruit; it is extracted from olives using exclusively mechanical means. These two properties together with the rule that prevents the addition of any additive unless the water makes this product a food characterized by its naturalness as it keeps perfectly intact the original assets that it possessed inside as well as some components whose training depends on the mechanical and extraction interventions to which it is subjected.
There are several regulations that regulate the production and marketing: some mandatory, Regulation 2568/91 which establishes the analytical determinations and the values ‚Äč‚Äčthat these must assume for each of the parameters indicated; the legislative decree 155/97 (H.A.C.C.P Hazard Analysis of the Chritical Control Point) concerning the sanitary aspects; other volunteers, Regulation 2081/92 concerning the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin of agricultural products and foodstuffs; the subsequent Regulation 2037/93 which establishes the methods for its application.

With this last regulation, the European Community has registered as many as 23 disciplinary production of Italian and foreign extra virgin olive oils. Among these NGP (Protected Geographical Indication) "Tuscan extra virgin olive oil" and more recently two DOP (Protected Designations of Origin) "extra virgin olive oil of Chianti Classico" and extra virgin olive oil from the "Terre di Siena".
To complete the aforementioned regulations it is worth mentioning a further voluntary grandmother, ie ISO 8402, and ISO 9000 which define the quality of a food product intended as correspondence to certain specific product requirements, able to meet the expressed and implicit needs of the consumer and the general criteria for the corresponding certification.
It seems opportune to remember that the concept of quality has assumed different meanings in the various historical moments, attributing various importance to the characteristics that determine the same quality and to the variables suitable for evaluating their correspondence to the objectives, implicitly and explicitly desired.
Over time and in space, many factors have modified the interpretation in an evolutionary sense and, all in all, the same application.

Three essential factors should be noted in this area, with broad and extensive repercussions also in the olive oil sector:
1) the evolution of demand, increasingly directed towards qualitative and less quantitative needs;
2) evaluation of the offer with two types of products:
a) a sub-brand subject to the harsh competition rules which tends to express itself in the lowering of costs and therefore in the quality levels marked by the lack of adequate knowledge on the part of the consumer;
b) vice versa of brand and / or high level, more and more in line with customer needs and / or expectations;
3) the globalization and internationalization of the markets that exposes companies both to maintain a high standard of quality (safety and health) and must widen the range of product specificities (perceptions, sensations, assessments of what has been received, degree of global satisfaction and analytically), in relation to the expectations and needs of different customers / consumers. In this context, the combination of the product process and the belief that the quality of the product and its certification can not be obtained if the quality of the system is not established. The defense and protection of the product, in this direction, are to be understood as organization of the supply chain (consortia of production, consortia of protection and / or consortia of common commercialization), through which they are defined and verified in an integrated way:
a) the specific basic parameters and the specific instrumental and sensorial parameters;
b) the agronomic and technological processes and the system of their control: in practice, a manual or a production disciplinary that aims not only to meet the typical merchandise, but in any case must point to the verification of nutritional and sensory requirements as well as the fulfillment of safety standards. Outside the production areas and therefore not traditionally consumers of olive oil, the thinking and the desire of potential customers based on the most recent studies and surveys, show how these expectations are identified first of all with the sensory and health aspects.

Sensory aspects
The organoleptic characteristics of food and olive oil (color, smell, taste) are parameters of considerable commercial interest. As it has been reported, in fact, these are linked to psycho-physiological evaluations such as consumer acceptability. One of the quality attributes is in fact the set of properties that make it "acceptable" or "desirable", to which the consumer can attribute an affective and symbolic value, as well as obviously gratifying. These considerations are also valid in the case of olive oil, whose classification according to the U.E. Regulation, already mentioned, must also take into account the organoleptic as well as instrumental evaluation.
Table 1 summarizes the parameters that define the smell, taste and taste-smell of virgin olive oils. From the same, it is highlighted how the corresponding chemical composition is provided almost exclusively by the minor components and only in a small part by the unsaponifiable fraction; the chemical part represented by molecules quantitatively present in parts per thousand or one million and whose quantitative and qualitative variables are strongly influenced by varietal, agronomic, technological and environmental factors.

Nutritional aspects
There is a variety of experimental and epidemiological evidence that indicates how the type of dietary behavior observed in Mediterranean countries, and in particular that followed in southern Italy in the 1960s, is beneficial and effective in preventing chronic diseases, among which those cardiovascular. This alimentary behavior is characterized by a high consumption of cereals and a low intake of lipids or fats, of which the majority are represented by added fats and above all olive oil. This food is able to maintain a high monounsaturated / saturated ratio of the global diet. Although it is not possible to attribute the beneficial effect in chronic disease prevention to the presence of olive oil alone, due to the possible simultaneous presence of many other foodstuff substances present in the diet, certainly the consumption of olive oil from this point of view, greatly influences this type of pathology. Alongside fatty acids, other components are important.
Among the most significant are the sterols, the aliphatic alcohols, some terpenols, the aromatic compounds, some vitamins (A, E) and the simple and complex ortholiphenolic fraction (hydrolysable). In this regard, it should be remembered that tocopherols (Vitamin E) are particularly important as inhibitors of intracellular oxidation processes, while their role in preventing oil oxidation during storage is rather limited.
The phenolic component, on the other hand, assumes a determining role both for its inhibitory activity of the "in vitro" oxidation processes, and for the same activity in the intracellular oxidation processes (in vivo). The reaction of oxygen on some organic compounds, in particular unsaturated fatty acids (poly), leads to the formation of unstable compounds (peroxides), which modify not only the product, nutritional and sensory characteristics of the foods in which they are present but also influence the health status of the corresponding consumers (inflammation, cardiovascular accidents, carcinogenesis, premature aging).
All this translates therefore both in the achievement of a greater stabilization of the oil (maintenance over time of its chemical and compositional characteristics) with reflections on the sensory properties including the typicality, and in an important series of effects on the human organism.


Extra virgin olive oils PGI and PDO
One of the weaknesses of the oil economy is the inadequate protection of this product against similar products and replacement products. This negative aspect was filled with the issue of the aforementioned Community Regulation "2081/92" as mentioned in the introduction. In fact, from this date various initiatives have been activated aimed at identifying, protecting and enhancing the natural characteristics of extra virgin olive oils that are inherent to the environment and which are also identifiable with their valuable characteristics, namely the recognition of typicality. A first recognition concerned the "Toscano" extra virgin olive oil (EC Reg. No. 644 dated 20/3/1998).
This is a protected geographical indication covering practically the whole region. More recently, two proposals for Protected Designations of Origin have been presented to the U.E: extra-virgin olive oil from the "Chianti Classico" and extra-virgin olive oil from the "Terre di Siena" (CE 31/3/2000). These are two oils that, as can be seen from the respective production regulations, are produced on territories well known for other famous typical products (Chianti wines, Brunello di Montalcino, etc.) and characterized by a low free acidity (0.5%), number of peroxides (12), a good content in antioxidants (100-150 mg / kg), and a good content in oleic acid (> 74% and> 72% respectively); from an intense green color with a tendency to yellow, a fruity olive smell and a taste with a bitter and pungent sensation.
On December 10th 1999 the National Committee for the protection of the d.o.c. virgin and extra virgin olive oil has approved the DOP recognition proposal for extra-virgin olive oil "Lucca" and prepared the preliminary investigation to be sent to Brussels to obtain the registration and protection of the community.

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