November 15, 2013
Posted by David Frakes, Chef
When I first started working at Lynmar I tasted some of the balsamic made in California, in the tradition of the Italian region of Reggio-Emilia. It was delicious – aroma, flavor and mouth-feel all perfectly in balance. The 18 years to age was probably a huge factor, but since my first taste I have eagerly awaited the opportunity to make some.
Vinegar is obtained from the alcoholic fermentation and acetic bio-oxidation of boiled grape must, requiring collaboration between the winemaker and the chef. Shane provided the grape juice and I was in charge of boiling it down. Although there is a recipe, I learned that the secret to success was to boil the juice down slowly and steadily. Ultimately, there is a point where the juice has been reduced and the sugar concentrated to the perfect sweetness at just above 40 brix.
Then the aging and refinement process begins. We will to combine the two batches I reduced and place them into the largest barrel, which can hold 30 liters and is made from oak, where it will stay for at least two years. The must displaced will be moved down into the 24 liter cherry barrel which will give up some of its contents to the 20 liter chestnut barrel. The contents of the chestnut barrel will in turn move down to the 16 liter locust barrel whose contents will move to the 13 liter ash barrel whose contents will finally be transferred to the 10 liter mulberry barrel. The exquisite thick, concentrated balsamic vinegar from the mulberry barrel will be transferred into bottles for our use in the kitchen and as gifts for very special guests!
The cycle takes a minimum of 12 years and every wood imbues the vinegar with its own characteristic. The chestnut, for example, provides color, the cherry-sweetness, and the mulberry-the hint of vanilla. We think that it helps that these casks are in our barn, surrounded by vineyards and vegetable gardens. They feel the morning fog and the summer heat and hear the voices of our staff and guests. Collaboration, skill, tradition, nature - terroir - is what you taste in every drop of Lynmar Balsamic.