Turning Wine into Vinegar – Not Water into Wine
August 15th, 2014 | Posted in event
Back in June, I had a chance to visit Black Prince Winery to toast the opening of the new Barrel House and local Oak Barrel Works in the renovated Barn.
While we were there Pete and Geoff let me know that the Barn was also being prepped for a unique new venture to be Opening soon…well soon is NOW !
The Grand Opening is this weekend – Saturday, August 16 at Black Prince Winery, but I got the “cooks” tour early – a sneak peek that was a real eye-opener !
Canadian Vinegar Cellars offers local barrel-aged wine vinegars crafted right here in The County by Pete and Marla Bradford and Geoff Webb.
Pete and Marla have already established a cult following for this exciting wine by-product – quietly making wine vinegars for the last five years on a small scale and aging them in the local oak barrels that Pete makes or re-coopers.
Marla explained that it was time to expand, “ We have worked with Geoff Webb and Black Prince Winery on a number of projects over the years and have a great respect for what they are doing with local wine so it was a natural for us to expand our production right here on the Loyalist Parkway in Picton”
Highly sought after by Chefs and Foodies alike these special vinegars are ideal for marinating and cooking meats and make great salad dressings and even dips !
We tasted some of the vinegars being made from these wines while admiring the oak casks they are resting in. Pete let me in on a secret – the key to making great wine vinegar actually starts with good wine (many people believe that only bad wine is turne
d into vinegar, but not so – if the wine is bad then the vinegar will be bad) so start with a good wine that you want to conv
ert into vinegar and add the very crucial secret ingredient to the process – a good “mother”.
Pete explains that vinegar “mother” is like a sour-dough bread starter and must be cultured and lovingly nurtured over time (and will last for years and get better with age if treated right) – his mother is carefully locked away in a safe room at Black Prince.
Once a wine is chosen to be made into vinegar it is inoculated with the “mother” and placed in a suitable oak barrel leaving a lot a head space (not full). The wine/vinegar is then “bubbled” in the barrel – using air forced through the liquid to evaporate the residual alcohol. This process can take weeks or even months depending on the level of alcohol in the wine that must be eliminated before bottling (by law wine vinegars must contain less that 1.2 % alc/vol. to be sold legally). Pete strives for zero percent ~
While alcohol is being eliminated the natural volatile acidity (VA) in the wine increases and takes over from the fruit while it turning it to vinegar – all in oak barrels which are at the same time imparting wood flavours and letting the wine vinegar breath and develop over time.to be made into vinegar it is inoculated with the “mother” and placed in a suitable oak barrel leaving a lot a head space (not full). The wine/vinegar is then “bubbled” in the barrel – using air forced through the liquid to evaporate the residual alcohol. This process can take weeks or even months depending on the level of alcohol in the wine that must be eliminated before bottling (by law wine vinegars must contain less that 1.2 % alc/vol. to be sold legally). Pete strives for Zero percent alcohol.
In many ways it is the opposite to making wine, Geoff grins, “We are embracing ideas and practices that keep most winemakers up all night worrying – adding oxygen and raising the acidity in the wine as much as possible in a half empty wooden barrel would scare the crap out of any normal winemaker”.
The results are stunning ! Canadian Vinegar Cellars at Black Prince Winery has 10 different wine varieties in production including Chardonnay, Gamay, Melon, Pinot Noir and Foch – Pete remembers the first wine vinegar they ever made, “Geoff had 1000 litres of Marachel Foch wine from the Black Prince Estate vineyard back in 2008. It was good wine but a little high in acidity so they were not going to bottle it that year. I knew it would make the perfect base for our first vinegar so we took the plunge. We sold it all out a year later – over 2,500 bottles !”
Pete’s enthusiasm is catching. Since then they have been experimenting with many other grape varieties and other types of wood for the barrels – Cherry, Hickory, Oak and Ash to name a few. In fact Pete invented the first C H O A barrels originally for wine (Black Prince and County Cider both won medals) but has also found that that combination of woods also produces screamingly good vinegars – and the CHOA now accounts for a full line of different vinegars, particularly Chardonnay.
“The barrel-aging of these wine vinegars makes them truly unique – all local, all Canadian products”, says Marla, “We do not know of ANY other production like it anywhere else in Canada, and it is right here in The County !”
This local team has the vision and talent to go far. Already well-known for quality wine aged in local oak barrels it seems a natural progression for them to produce wine by-products like local wine vinegars right at Black Prince. “We may be the first Canadian Vignerons to promote local vinegars. Most people think we are crazy to be developing vinegars on the same premises as a winery”, laughs Geoff, “but if you are careful and sanitary and keep the two productions apart, it actually makes a lot of sense. We are just closing the circle, working with the same basic ingredients – grapes – just in two different ways”.
The results are impressive and I certainly recommend a visit to Black Prince Winery and Canadian Vinegar Cellars – not just for their love of local wine, but now also for the first local County wine vinegars. With names like “Holy Shit”,
“C H O A” and “Gone Fishin” there is something for everyone…with a baguette, some blue cheese and sear-fried mushrooms you are in for a real treat ~ and afterwards you can also enjoy a nice glass of wine !
Check them out this weekend at Black Prince Winery on the Loyalist Parkway right in Picton.