Monday, May 18, 2009

Balsamic Vinegar Tasting

For something a little different, why not try a balsamic vinegar taste test? There are many wineries and local farms on Vancouver Island that produce balsamic vinegar such as Venturi Schulze Vineyards in Cobble Hill. If you're not so lucky as to find yourself exploring wineries, do it yourself or with a few friends.

How to taste balsamic vinegar
  1. To properly taste a balsamic vinegar, use a small glass or a wine glass. Pour one to two tablespoons of vinegar into the glass and gently swirl it around. Take a look at the color, clarity and thickness of the layer of vinegar that remains on the glass.
  2. Like wine, stick your nose into the glass and breath in. What do you smell?
  3. And finally, taste. The flavor should match the aromatic qualities of the vinegar. To taste, place a small amount of the vinegar in your mouth. Press your tongue against the roof of your mouth and inhale, allowing the aromas to fill your mouth and nose. The vinegar should cover your whole mouth and in particular your entire tongue, from the tip back, including the sides. Think about Linkthe flavors you taste and the order in which you experience them.
For a more detailed outline on the proper way to taste vinegar, check out this website. And, for a good laugh read Balsamic Rage - a rant about the overusage of balsamic vinegar by LobsterSquad.

The Winners - Balsamic Vinegar Taste Test
I always like to have balsamic vinegar in the pantry. It's great for salad dressings, marinades or for a savory dessert such as my new favorite balsamic strawberries with ricotta cream. Using the balsamic vinegars I have on hand, here are my taste testing results:

Country: Italy
Description: Since 1912, Fini brand makes high quality balsamic vinegar of Modena. This premium quality balsamic vinegar is aged in barrels of six different types of wood (cherry, chestnut, oak, juniper, ash, mulberry) to obtain its unique flavor. Fini adheres to strict classification system set by AIB (Italian Balsamic Vinegar Tasting Association).
Cost: $11.99 for 250 ml bottle
The Result: This balsamic has a dark, rich colour. It's sweet smelling, not too acidic and has a nice full-bodied flavour. Perfect for a salad of ripe tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil. My favorite, this is a terrific staple for anyone's kitchen.

Country: Canada
Description: Honey balsamic vinegar made from raw unpasturized honey and aged in a succession of wooden barrels. I believe this vinegar has been aged for two years.
Cost: Don't know, but it is reasonable
The Results: This balsamic has a very sweet, honey smell. It's a thinner balsamic and has a light, amber colour. Overall, it's not too acidic but quite sweet. Good as a reduction drizzled over fruit, cake, yogurt or ice cream.

Country: Italy
Description: Red balsamic dressing, this is ideal for dressing and seasoning meat, fish, vegetables, and of course strawberries and ice cream.
Cost: $7-8
The Results: A mildly sweet flavoured balsamic dressing with a fruit jam texture. Tasty.

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