Extra Virgin and Virgin Olive Oil denote oils that are completely natural and unrefined. All other oils can be assumed to be refined or to contain a proportion of refined olive oil. These blends are usually sold as Pure Olive Oil, Olive Oil or Light Olive Oil. Below are some classifications of different types of olive oil to help you know the difference.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) – natural, unrefined olive oil with a free acidity of below 0.8%, no defects and a fruity characteristic.
Virgin Olive Oil
Virgin Olive Oil – natural unrefined olive oil with a free acidity below 2%, with minimal defects.
Refined/Light Olive Oil
Olive oils which are defective and unfit for consumption as they are, need to undergo a refining process during which they are deodorised and bleached. The result is a tasteless, almost colourless product, which is refined olive oil.
So called Light Olive Oils are light in flavour and colour, in other words, refined olive oil. Every oil contains the same number of kilojoules; there is no oil which has fewer calories than another.
Olive Pomace Oil
Olive Pomace Oil is solvent extracted (chemically dissolved) from the solid press cake residue. It cannot be classified as Olive Oil, specifically not as Pomace Olive Oil which is often stated on labels.
Cold Extracted or Cold Pressed indicates that milling temperatures were kept below 30◦ C, preventing the destruction of the temperature sensitive vitamins, antioxidants and flavour compounds.
The best olive oil by far is therefore Cold Extracted Extra Virgin, with full retention of all the wonderful flavours and health promoting constituents. However, as with wines, good quality olive oil is defined by its chemical and physical properties as well as its taste and aroma. The specific cultivar or blend of cultivars used, ripeness of fruit, area of origin and climate influence the aroma, flavour, colour and mouthfeel of oil. For top culinary results, match or complement the specific flavours and aromas of the oil with those of the food. – SA Olive