You can pay just a few dollars for a bottle to more than a hundred, yet cost doesn't always match quality or taste. Consumer Reports just tested 23 extra-virgin olive oils from countries including Italy and Spain, as well as the state of California.
Expert consultants assessed freshness and olive fruit flavors and determined if there are any defects, like oxidation.
"As the oil ages, it goes from slightly stale, wet cardboard, papier-mâché flavors all the way to rancid, painty notes," said Erin Gudeux of Consumer Reports.
Extra-virgin olive oils are supposed to be top quality.
"It not only has to pass some basic lab tests, but on top of that it has to have an absolutely defect-free flavor, no off-notes at all," said Gudeux.
But testers found only nine of the 23 oils truly tasted like extra-virgin olive oil. And several big name oils, including ones labeled extra-virgin from Bertolli and Goya, rated only fair.
Consumer Reports did find two excellent olive oils, both of which hail from California.
The McEvoy Ranch olive oil has an intense aroma with a distinct, balanced olive fruit flavor. But it's pricey at $22 a bottle. Far less expensive is Trader Joe's California Estate olive oil at $6 a bottle. It has very complex and balanced flavors, with a strong aroma.
Either would be a welcome addition to any dish that calls for drizzled olive oil.