Sommelier Authors Consumer Guide for European Audiences

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Wilma van Grinsven-Padberg is an olive oil enthusiast turned certified sommelier. The latest manifestation of her passion for olive oil comes in the form of a new book: The Olive Oil Masterclass.

In it, she attempts to answer some basic questions about olive oil while providing a comprehensive tasting guide for consumers.

Grinsven-Padberg did not grow up on a family farm, strolling through the shade of olive trees. Nor did she find her passion for olive oil through cooking or traveling as a young woman. In fact, all of what she does now, from giving olive oil masterclasses to writing this book, came out of sheer happenstance.

“Eleven years ago, my partners and I bought a company in trouble and the company happened to be Oil & Vinegar, so I knew nothing about olive oil before that,” she told Olive Oil Times, referring to the Oil & Vinegar chain of gourmet specialty shops.

“I had received olive oil bottles for my birthday and I put them in my kitchen because I loved to look at them,” Grinsven-Padberg added. “I never used them. Never. I was scared to use them. I had no clue how to use them properly. I was 49 years old when I discovered I had this love for olive oil.”

That discovery began when she attended the Olive Oil Sommelier Certification Program in February 2017.

Now buying, selling and talking about olive oil makes up most of what Grinsven-Padberg does for a living. She is currently the buying director for Oil & Vinegar and gives olive oil masterclasses in her spare time.

“When I came back from the sommelier course, where I learned how to find good olive oil, wonderful good oil, that really changed my life,” she said. “That course really motivated me to write the book.”

Grinsven-Padberg’s enthusiasm for olive oil grew from there and she wanted to share this enthusiasm with the rest of the world. So far, she has imparted her knowledge with everyone who has signed up for her courses, from curious people to chefs from Michelin star restaurants.

“The thing about restaurants is they do not use good olive oil,” she said. “It’s generally Arbequina and you are lucky if it has no defects, so they don’t have any knowledge about good olive oil.”

Then another serendipitous moment came Grinsven-Padberg’s way, which would lead to her writing The Olive Oil Masterclass.

“I was explaining this [about the olive oil in restaurants] to somebody and that somebody contacted the publisher,” Grinsven-Padberg said. “She made us contact each other and the publisher was quite enthusiastic about me writing this book because in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium there are not very many books about olive oil.”

The Olive Oil Masterclass was originally written in Dutch, which is Grinsven-Padberg’s native language. The book will also be published in English, French and German, allowing it to reach a large number of northern Europeans, who represent a rapidly growing market for olive oil in Europe.

In the book, Grinsven-Padberg begins with a brief history of olive oil then describes how it is made, before going on to explain how to taste olive oil and distinguish the good from the bad.

“What I did in the book was, I know a lot of people in the industry, so when I thought that I could ask somebody who has really good knowledge, I use that to supplement what I’ve written in the book,” she said.

The book serves as a comprehensive consumer guide for olive oil discussing concepts such as how olio novello differs from regular extra virgin olive oil; the olive fly and diseases; olive oil rules, regulations and fraud; health benefits of olive oil according to a cardiologist; and provides some pairing suggestions toward the end.

“The last chapter talks about all the competitions and describes which competition is the best one,” Grinsven-Padberg said. “ If you have a bottle of olive oil with a competition logo on it, you can see where the competition ranks on a scale.”

Grinsven-Padberg has been very pleased with how the process of writing the book went. She was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was for her to write it, occasionally receiving inspiration in the middle of the night.

She is still unsure of what she will do once the book is published, but for now, her plan is to keep hosting masterclasses and continuing to create enthusiasm for olive oil.

“I’m overwhelmed by the attention that I received right now already,” Grinsven-Padberg said.

“[Yesterday I had] 160 people in my masterclass who want to know what I know and why I do what I did, so there is something in the air,” she added. “Olive oil is becoming more and more important to people and they are realizing that starting to use olive oil is very tasteful and healthy.”

This article was first published in Olive Oil Times.

“When I came back from the sommelier course, where I learned how to find good olive oil, wonderful good oil, that really changed my life.”

Wilma van Grinsven-Padberg