Not content with merely making apple cider vinegar, producer Joseph Reiterer took a step back and borrowed the famed balsamic-making process from Modena. He starts with apples that he crushes and then cooks down in an open vat. The resulting rich apple liquid is indoctrinated with a vinegar "mother" and then aged in wood for five years.
The result is pure heaven, a dark brown liquid that is thinner than a balsamic condimento but softer and sweeter than a balsamic vinegar. The flavor is unique, rich caramelized apple flavor accentuated by a mild acidity that feels more like a tart finish.
This is a perfect choice for meal-like, composed salads containing greens, meats, and cheeses. You might also add a bit to homemade mayonnaise to dress your favorite chicken salad or finish squash or pumpkin soups. It's really a perfect flavor complement to deglaze sautéed pork dishes - try it in Marcella Hazan's wonderful dish of pork tenderloin medallions, onions, pine nuts, raisins and balsamic. Adding a few drops will create a whole new dimension to your apple pies and tarts.
About the Producer
The mountainous area of Italy's Alto Adige (or Südtirol) region was once a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which is why German-sounding names are quite common throughout the area. Joseph Reiterer and his colleague Robert Bauer have a small fattoria on Joseph's farm near the town of Meltina. Joseph is an acclaimed sparkling wine maker, well known for his craftsmanship and respect for agricultural output and terroir, while Robert is often considered the most skilled master vinegar maker in all of Germany.
These are vinegars with rich, deep and complex flavors, worthy to be savored in their own right. More than just as a way to add some acidic bite to your favorite salads, these elixirs can serve as the centerpiece around which to create a meal.
These are not merely wine vinegars infused with fruit, but rather, they are actually made from fruit that is pressed, fermented into wine, and then put through an acidic fermentation, resulting in deep fruit flavor and softer aciditiy. Acetoria artisan vinegars are made with the utmost attention to detail, from the sugar and acid levels of the fruits as they are pressed, fermented and acidified, to the quality of the wines used to make the wine vinegars. Vinegar "mothers" are carefully chosen, the temperature and humidity of the process are controlled, and just the right type of woods are selected for the appropriate aging periods.
Each vinegar, wine or fruit, is carefully produced according to its particular specifications. Each has its own fermentation temperature, determined over time. The correct quantities of fresh air, alcohol and acidity are all necessary for the survival of the vinegar bacteria. Of course, there are also trade secrets involved in perfecting the process!
After fermentation too, the young vinegar must be nursed with care. For example, a strong, powerful Meursault vinegar prefers old wood - small barrels from Burgundy - for its maturation, while Sauternes and black currant require stainless steel tanks to mature properly, as they would lose their fruit flavors too quickly in wood. Even Fleurie is matured in stainless steel in order to preserve its freshness. On the other hand, Tokay and Châteauneuf-du-Pape need both: wood to give them body, and stainless steel to safeguard their delicate perfume.
While these examples give a sense of the factors involved, to do justice to each type of fruit and wine, the producers feel that it is not sufficient to have mere machines, but feeling, and yes, even love for the product.