Vinegar: experimentation, creativity and history

Essences, woods, fragrances and ongoing research for a product that is more than a simple condiment: at the vinegar cellar with Ruth and Andrea.

Vinegar has a strong personality, that leaves its mark. It stays in your mouth, stimulating salivation, enhancing the acidic or sweet and aromatic tendency of a dish. It stays in our body, thanks to the recognised disinfectant, beneficial and medicinal properties.
A fascinating history that goes back to time immemorial, for a product that is almost always on our table and in our preparations: from balsamic to wine, apple or honey-based, vinegar is one of the most popular condiments to add flavour to salad, to marinate, to preserve vegetables (who doesn’t have a jar of pickled something in their kitchen?), to soften meat, transform a dessert.
The various types appeal to different tastes, exploring the potential of a product that is enjoying success, thanks to the great desire for experimentation and curiosity that characterises modern day cuisine.
The use of vinegar, especially in its most aromatic varieties, can become a game, as Andrea suggests: an element that enhances creativity, enriches with fragrance and flavour, helping re-design the taste of every dish.

Bonfigliol vinegar cellar: how perfect alchemy is born

Giuliano works wood, he restores it, he teaches people how to treat it in the best possible way. He is not a wine connoisseur, nor a vinegar enthusiast, yet his destiny and most of all his curiosity led him to fall in love with balsamic vinegar and its tradition.
Fifteen years ago he discovered the magic of it, and has been studying, experimenting, creating ever since.
The vinegar cellar can be compared to an alchemist’s laboratory: it takes long, complex and elaborate procedures to produce vinegar. It requires an excellent knowledge of chemistry processes, great patience and precision.
At his vinegar cellar, Giuliano produces aged wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar according to the Modenese style, however using only local grape varieties such as raboso, merlot, cabernet, glera, pinot bianco.
To produce balsamic vinegar he begins with fresh must (not overly pressed to obtain more product), cooked at length to achieve a high enough sugar concentration to start alcoholic fermentation and acetic fermentation. In the spring the vinegar is stored in barrels of gradually smaller sizes, for ageing.
He uses fresh and always controlled musts also for wine vinegar, that he doesn’t bring to complete fermentation, but adds mature vinegar from the previous year when it has obtained the right sugar level, to start acetic fermentation. The vinegar was aged in steel cisterns and then transferred to barrels.
He believes in long fermentation times, as they taught him, to give his products greater fragrance: therefore he does not use “vinegar starter” which can develop during the acetic fermentation process, rather, he removes it, to avoid it from producing unpleasant odours that denature the product.

From wood to pumpkin, a creative workshop of taste, fragrance and flavour

With his great knowledge of wood, Giuliano has fun experimenting with the use of different varieties that are not traditionally used, closely studying the outcome and behaviour of the finished product.
For white vinegars he uses light coloured woods such as ash, acacia and laurel, for red he uses chestnut, oak, cherry, mulberry, ash, plum and other types, to achieve special, new, “uncommon” flavours.
When the wood gives off flavours that are too strong, they are used to make small additions and top ups, as in the case of vinegars aged in juniper.
Porosity is also a fundamental element: in fact these types of wood are placed in a special sequence, because in order for the vinegar to develop the greatest degree of acidity, it needs air, and this occurs in barrels that are often in a central position of the battery.
Giuliano’s experimentation also continues in terms of containers.
In addition to the classic wooden barrels, he has chosen to use amphoras, which have been used for wine since the Roman era, in a battery, just like the barrels, and covered with chestnut leaves.
Never tired of exploring new opportunities, he has decided to also use pumpkins as containers, to age and refine a special type of very spicy balsamic vinegar, exploiting the soft taste of the fruit.

From garden to table, listening to nature

Creativity and passion are motors of creativity, respect and listening to nature are the cornerstones of quality. Giuliano creates his essences from his own crops and garden. Following his intuition, he lets rose petals ferment in raboso to give softness to a wine that is otherwise hard, he uses oranges and orange blossoms to add freshness and because he loves citrus fruits, he chooses to use radicchio to create a vinegar with an intense flavour of peat, undergrowth, mushroom.
Just like Ruth and Andrea, Giuliano follows the cycles of nature and appreciates seasonal products, exploiting their potential for his production: the uniqueness of his vinegars is distinguished by this very property, in addition to his patient and careful work.


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