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Interview with Mar Villacañas, Director of the European School of Tasting

Interview with Mar Villacañas, Director of the European School of Tasting

Despite being the first producer of EVOO, the lack of knowledge about everything that surrounds it has motivated many oil lovers to create schools where students can learn and discover everything there is and what EVOO entails. Mar Luna Villacañas is a professional taster and journalist specialising in the culture of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. She also professionally advises olive harvests, as well as collaborating in the communication and dissemination of this marvellous world. Villacañas is also the Director of the European Tasting School, a place where thousands of students learn and discover how an EVOO should be treated, its varieties, origin...etc.

European Tasting School

If you want to know more about the work of the European Tasting School, stay with us!

What do the oil tasting courses of the Escuela Europea de Cata consist of?

We have different options and levels, all aimed at those who attend, whether they are professionals or consumers, can lay the foundations of knowledge in different aspects of the world of olive oils. From initiation to sommelier through to production.

Is it aimed at professionals or at all types of consumers?

For all types of profiles. Because, despite having good professionals in the sector, in many cases they also need to bring their knowledge into the 21st century.

Has the profile of students changed over time?

I could say no and I could say yes. After 12 years and more than 1,600 students, most of them have been expanding their knowledge and growing as consumers or professionals. Yes, in the last two years, I am seeing something very encouraging for the sector: younger people willing to manage family wealth from a different perspective.

What is the most difficult thing to learn or understand during the course? What surprises students the most.

The most surprising thing, and I see it with students from outside Spain, is the lack of real knowledge that we have in the largest olive oil producing country. False myths, data based on past centuries, ignorance of the legal minimums... it is sometimes a little embarrassing.

Has interest in understanding the world of Extra Virgin Olive Oil evolved?

Totally, although we are still far behind in comparison with the world of wine. But it is noticeable that consumers want to know more every day in order to buy better and professionals realise that the traditional formulas are exhausted.

Is there more knowledge about the different varieties at the national level?

Unfortunately not, and this is a question I always ask. And it doesn't matter if you are from Andalusia or the Basque Country, or Germany... at most you usually know four varieties.

And at the international level?

There are two types of personalities, those who know nothing at all and those who are passionate about EVOO and who have sought information and are eager to learn.

Which varieties are usually preferred?

It must be taken into account that most of the consumption, both in Spain and abroad, is of EVOOs in large-scale distribution, where most of the time they are assemblies of different varieties and are not usually put in the packaging.

There is also a large gastro-cultural component associated with geographical areas and dominant varieties.

How important is the sense of smell?

The maximum, and not only for tasting virgin olive oils... for everything. It is the sense that we train the least and the one that provides us with the most information.

What do you look for in a tasting?

On a professional level, the aim is to ensure that the products really correspond to the commercial category indicated and from there to know them for their best use in gastronomy.

At the consumer level, to know that the labelling is correct by discovering whether there is a defect or not and then, its most appropriate use for each dish.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to choose a good EVOO but is not an expert?

The first thing is to have at least a minimum of knowledge because it is the first door to discover the AOVEs from those that are not.

After that, you should not be carried away by the appearance of the colour of the product and the packaging.

And finally, to enjoy the wide variety of profiles that we have in Spain, to "play" with the pairings. Each EVOO will provide you with nuances of aroma and flavour that, when combined with food, can give you a unique sensory experience.

Some will be rounded and forceful, others delicate, others all-rounders, but above all, Extra Virgin Olive Oil will occupy the place it deserves and not just a stone guest at our tables.

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@verdesmeraldaolive

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