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TerraOlivo, Day #3 – All in Good Taste

July 28, 2010

I was mighty impressed by the coordination of the TerraOlivo 2010 program.  Moshe Spak, the organizer introduced me to Leo, who was in charge of the samples and set up.  On the third and final day of the competition I arrived early to observe the process.

Control Log

Leo arrives 30-45 minutes before the jurors to unseal boxes and check off samples which have been numbered before hand.  He carefully cross checks everything, and then places three groups (one for each panel) in a secure location.  All of this activity happens in a separate room from the jurors, who are not yet in the room anyway, but the point it that every assurance is made to keep the process completely blind.  He was extremely focused, working quickly and confidently.  Leo has been setting up wine competitions in Argentina for 16 years, and has been doing olive oil competitions for four years, so he has an efficient system.

Raúl Castellani, the General Manager of the competition, arrived to check the state of the blue glasses personally.  Nothing must have a residual aroma from a prior tasting.  Once approved, the hotel staff can polish and stage the glassware on trays in anticipation of the next step.

Official blue tasting glass cannot have residual aroma

The clock was ticking and Leo was really in production mode now.  If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant you know what the pace is like — Leo worked at that speed, but with the extra pressure of assuring that 63 oils were poured into 378 blue glasses in a controlled fashion.  There were 18 tasters arranged in three panels with a total of 21 oils to each sample — 378 pours.

Each blue glass had a clear glass lid with a preprinted number applied to it — unique to the day, the table and the extra virgin olive oil.  The glass lids were staged and then Leo placed 18 blue cups in a professional warmer — the oil must be delivered to the jurors at 28°C  (82°F).  Any cooler any some aromas are not released; too much warmer and the oil will be out of balance.  TerraOlivo uses a Bunsen Thermostatic bath.

I watched as he deftly opened an oil, poured six tastes, covered the samples with the clear glass lids marked with a control number, and then did the same with two more oils.  The instant read thermometer was immediately deployed in the first row to ensure 28°C, and in short order the first group was quickly placed on a tray and immediately delivered to the jurors in the next room.

Glass lids staged; blue glasses warming

A precise pour for six glasses only, then the next EVOO is poured.

Using an instant read thermometer to ensure 28°C

Hotel waitstaff quickly deliver pre-warmed samples to the correct panel

It sounds simple when written here, but it happens incredibly quickly.  As soon as the first three blind samples are taken by the runners to the next room, Leo sets up the next batch.

By early Tuesday afternoon the oils had all been tasted and rated and the juror’s numbers tabulated.

It is now Wednesday evening and the results will be announced shortly.

I’ll send a post later this evening with the results.

Good luck to all of the entrants!



Traditional method of palate cleansing in tasting panels and competitions

Just how does one taste over 20 olive oils per day?  Several of you expressed interest in the process, and I’m eager to share what I know.  As far as the actual technique for tasting olive oil, I refer you to my colleague Nancy’s essay to which I mention in my earlier post Variety is the Spice of Life — this is a good starting point.  As far as cleaning your palate, here is a paraphrase of her text, “In between samples, clean your palate by eating a small piece of tart, green apple (preferably Granny Smith) and then rinsing your mouth with water.”

I also recommend looking into a new product which has become a real favorite of mine; it’s called SanTásti.  Developed by two Cal Poly viniculture students for a senior project, this is the world’s first “Palate Cleansing Beverage”; it is all natural and it really works.  I’m so impressed that I’m doing some work with them.  If you’re in the trade and want to get more information let me know at  If you’re a consumer you can buy two samples for a nominal cost and check it out on your own.  SanTásti is also now bottled in Italy.  Either way, when you contact the company the inventors will answer, so please tell them that Tagami sent you!

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Jaynet Tagami permalink
    July 28, 2010 10:26 AM

    Liz, Great reporting on the sensitive preparing of the olive oils for tasting and judging for this competition. We are looking forward to the announcement of the winners.

  2. Al Hamman permalink
    July 28, 2010 12:10 PM

    To see Bill Sanders, wine and olive oil expert, show tasting techniques at:

    Great work, Liz.

  3. July 28, 2010 8:46 PM

    Nice post, Liz. Love all the details and finer points of such an event. A lot going on, indeed. Great photos. And hats off to Leo!

  4. July 29, 2010 1:10 AM

    Great in depth reporting skills. T’was indeed an honor to have hosted such a first time event of this nature and we look forward to next year (watch this space) You have managed to capture every angle very nicely, Thanks for your efforts and Thanks to our management, here at the Inbal Jerusalem to have had the vision to bring something of this nature to Israel.

  5. July 29, 2010 3:14 AM

    Great Job LIZ !!!

    • August 6, 2010 5:42 AM

      Yes a Great Job from Liz, hope next Terraolivo Edition count with your olive oils brands from tunisia,

  6. February 27, 2013 11:58 AM

    nice post..i like it


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