Friday, 25 January 2008

A graceful acidity

As living standards have risen, so has the taste for improved gourmet products. In line with this increasing and more knowledgeable demand, producers have pampered an enormous variety of wines that are transformed into vinegar. Subsequently, vinegars that were already acclaimed worldwide like those from Jerez -Sherry vinegar- or Huelva, coexist now with others produced with excellent wines and cava in different areas of Spain.

These sought-after vinegars generally correspond to a Certificate of Origin region such as Penedès, Priorat, el Bierzo, or Rias Baixas and the most representative wines are chosen to prepare unique products. Cellars such as Agustí Torelló, Puig i Roca, Ochoa, Alvear or Bodegas Palacios have added vinegar to their list of delightful wine products. They are made from quality wines obtained from a variety of grapes: tempranillo, garnacha, cabernet sauvingnon, albariño, muscatel or pedro ximenez.

To ensure that the final product boasts a wide range of aromas, once the chemical process is over, the vinegar obtained is filtered and then left to mature in wooden casks until it develops the desired qualities and fruity flavours that will delight chefs and consumers alike. Depending on the results sought, the producer will choose a certain type of wood. For instance, barrels made with oak boost the aromas, whereas those made from chestnut wood facilitate the acidification process. The ageing term can vary, starting from a minimum of six months. Some vinegars may be left to age in wooden casks for more than twenty five years.

Nurturing such a product has paid off. So much so, that vinegar deserves a special place in any gourmet larder. In the hands of a connoisseur, it gives a distinctive touch to any dish: from salads to stews and even desserts. It is advisable to use white vinegars in salads, as their taste tends to be slightly milder. In contrast, vinegars made from red wine are, broadly speaking, stronger and work well in marinades, stews and sauce reductions.

But vinegar is also an ingredient that has conquered other realms in the kitchen. Traditionally, a few drops of balsamic vinegar were a must to prepare certain fruits such us berries, but its peculiar and rich taste knows no boundaries. Flavoursome and now popular desserts, like a variety of ice-creams, profit from a hint of balsamic vinegar.

So far, we have touched on wine vinegars but it is worth remembering that vinegar can be obtained from other sources: apple, rice, malt, strawberry, beer or coconut are just a few examples. The list of vinegar types goes on and their qualities and uses in the kitchen are endless and rewarding.

For a fine selection of Spanish vinegars please visit our Spanish food online store.


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