Olive oil seems straightforward, but actually offers a bewildering range of choices. And when you’re picking the best from supermarket shelves, forget about price – our research shows it’s no indicator of quality.
Virgin or extra virgin? Fruity or mild? Italian or Greek? This isn’t the only question people ask when they’re shopping for good olive oil. The other is ‘How much does it cost?’
However, from our latest research, the question you should be asking is; ‘does more expensive mean better quality?’ The answer to that seems to be, not necessarily.
As olive oil expert Charles Carey explains in our video interview, it’s always good to have two bottles of extra virgin olive oil – an inexpensive oil for cooking and making dressings, and a pricier ‘estate-bottled’ olive oil for dipping bread in or finishing dishes with.
Not so special after oil
Possibly with one eye on capturing the market for premium estate-bottled oils, both Napolina and Filippo Berio now make extra virgin olive oils that are more expensive than their standard oils. These are labelled as ‘Special Selection’, so we wanted to find out what is was that made them ‘special’.
The answer? Not a lot. According to our experts, not only did they not meet the high standards of estate-bottled olive oils, they didn’t even beat out the much cheaper oils we tested.
Filippo Berio Special Selection, priced at £4.99 for a 500ml bottle, scored lower than four cheaper olive oils we tested. And Napolina Special Selection was rated lower than standard Napolina, despite costing almost £2 more. So it’s clear that these ‘Special Selection’ oils aren’t worth paying extra for.
Well oil be damned!
Perhaps the biggest surprise was that Aldi’s olive oil, the cheapest on test at £2.25, came second behind just Napolina’s standard bottle. Other supermarkets didn’t fair so well, with Tesco’s oil being described by one expert as ‘like a mouldy piece of bread’ and Marks & Spencer’s as having ‘farmyard flavours’.
We Brits consume 28 million litres of olive oil a year, so we could definitely save a fair bit by going for cheaper offerings, without compromising on taste. How much do you spend on olive oil and what brands do you buy?
How much would you pay for a 500ml bottle of olive oil?
£2 - £2.99 (35%, 358 Votes)
£3 - £3.99 (26%, 265 Votes)
Less than £2 (16%, 160 Votes)
£4 - £5.99 (15%, 153 Votes)
I don't buy olive oil (5%, 47 Votes)
More than £6 (4%, 36 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,012