Dark Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
Some of you might remember the first time you ate bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Unexpected, odd, then quickly delicious. After too many imposter balsamics, it is jarring when you taste the real thing, imported from Modena, Italy.
Modena has been using its Trebbiano grapes to make balsamic vinegar since the 11th century. The grapes are traditionally dried in boxes and pressed for their juices. The must is then brewed in vats over an open wood fire. It is in these vats that the sugars start to caramelize. The resulting brown syrup rests in barrels, where it takes on the flavour of the wood in which it sits. That wood might be cherry, juniper, ash, oak, chestnut, mulberry.
The Solera method then dictates that the vinegar move through a variety of barrels over the course of at least twelve years. On each move, the vinegar mixes with the rich residue of past vintages and is topped with younger must to compensate for evaporation.
At Vancouver Olive Oil Company on West Broadway, they take vinegars most seriously. Their Modena balsamics are aged for at least 18 years. When you enter their store, you’ll find gleaming stainless steel barrels filled with scrupulously chosen olive oils and balsamic vinegars.
Each of the barrels are tapped, so that you can taste-test the brews that interest you. In the dark balsamic vinegars, I’ve particularly enjoyed the naturally-flavoured black cherry, the dark espresso and, of course, the dark chocolate.
Trisha LeVatte, store manager and mother of the owner, Michaelanne Buckley, suggests that the dark chocolate balsamic will pair nicely with a mild Arbosano olive oil. It does.
Written by Elizabeth Newton