It is sometimes defined as a “nerve stimulant”: this expression, though doubtlessly unusual, is used to highlight an important property of certain foods and beverages. In other words, it means that they contain nutritional elements of considerable value, and therefore top-quality vinegars can be placed on the same level as all the other key ingredients of a healthy diet. Vinegar contains reinvigorating compounds that are beneficial to our health, and can therefore be considered a real tonic.
At a glance it appears rather fluid and iridescent. The colour depends on the source material from which it is made, and ranges from straw yellow to amber gold, if made from white wines, to a more or less deep shade of burgundy when made from red ones. We are only focusing on products deriving from grapes, because these are the vinegars par excellence. It could not be otherwise in a country like Italy, whose wines are celebrated world-wide.
Despite the common opinion we have of vinegar, its flavour – a term that encompasses all the stimuli perceived through the nose and mouth, and also includes tactile sensations – is really quite pleasant. In some cases it possesses a fine, delicate bouquet, while in others its aroma can be more intense, even aggressive, but always reminiscent of the wine from which it is made.
There is a whole world waiting to be discovered: generally speaking, our knowledge of vinegar is very scarce, and often, we are not intrigued by it, and fail to see its appeal. We would like things to change, and this is why we want to highlight its most attractive, obvious features, ignoring for the time being all the more intricate aspects regarding its chemical composition.
Sadly, most consumers are very superficial when it comes to buying and using vinegar, and pay very little attention to its flavour. A good vinegar should be balanced, fine, well-rounded, full-bodied, soft, acidic, astringent and much more.
Although we are still taking the first steps, there is already a whole new vocabulary for this product, and a wealth of descriptors to assess its quality. In Italy there is an association of vinegar tasters, the AIB, which was established in 2001, but for now its only focus is on balsamic vinegar, which doubtlessly offers a richer sensory profile.
It is now time to promote a new type of approach towards vinegar, paying greater attention to the quality of what we purchase. Just as we do when buying wine or olive oil, or any other type of food and beverage. It is, in short, time to celebrate vinegar. Are you ready?