The Scarlet Letter of Italy

scarletLetter and AFew letters may be as important as the letter A – the first letter of the alphabet, the first vowel, the alpha of omega, the grade we all strive for. Whether emblazoned in literary history as Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter or branded as Apple, Apollo or Abercrombie, the letter A stands out as something special. The evocative nature of the letter A in Italy’s gastro-history is most obvious and apparent when family cooks and chefs speak of aceto (vinegar). An incredible condiment that elevates the flavor of everything it touches.

As an ancient cooking ingredient, vinegar was appreciated for its ability to season and preserve food but nowadays it is most often underrated and misunderstood. There are people who consider vinegar simply a ‘wine gone bad,’ buying generic off the shelf brands to use as an ingredient in salad dressings. However, an artisan produced wine vinegar is a culinary asset with a palate personality that can add a touch of originality to many dishes. Like wine, a proper wine vinegar reflects the terroir of the region. The best wine vinegar is made from grapes that are used to make wine. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling are all used for vinegar production. All are deeply flavored and well worth seeking.

Producing a quality wine vinegar requires respect, tenacity, talent and a strong passion for the product. The scarlet letter A on the bottle label from the trend-setting cellars and vineyards of Pojer e Sandri  stands for an artisan aceto. Located in the Val di Cembra of Italy’s Sudtirol (TN) Pojer and Sandri  are known for producing highly acclaimed wines and notable wine vinegar.  P & S are part of a small group of Italian vinegar makers known as the Amici Acidi that have come together to save traditional vinegar production in Italy. Competing with mass-produced industrialized vinegar for the hearts and minds of consumers, small artisan producers like Pojer e Sandri continue to make an artisanal vinegar using barrels made from wood produced on their own land.  Pojersandri_RedandWhite

Lining the walls of the P & S acetaia* (ah-chay-tie-ah) barrel aging takes place over 12-18-24 months. Using a traditional slow percolating process, without mechanical intervention, the vinegars develop a depth of flavor reminiscent of a fine wine. Pojer e Sandri Aceto di Vino Rosso (red wine vinegar) from Dolomiti is made from grapes grown in the alpine valleys of the Dolomites (Negrara Trentina, Groppello, Lagrein, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir) and was listed as one of the 10 Best Wine Vinegars by Gambero Rosso, one of Italy’s most influential food and wine magazines. An aromatic and flavorful vinegar, it is ideal for making out-of-the-bottle salad dressings, marinades for grilled meats and vegetables, deglazing roasts and adding a bright tone to cured meats or stews.

Pojer e Sandri Red Wine Vinegar available at CosituttiMarketPlace

*an acetaia  (vinegar house) is a place where the vinegar is made and aged

 

 

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