Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
12-year-old biodynamic masterpieces from South Africa
These are, to my taste, one of the most wonderful products we sell. Caringly crafted, beautifully presented, exceptionally delicious. They are remarkable! If you get them once, I forecast it won’t be the last time you take some home. Nearly everyone who tastes them falls in love!
The vinegars are made by the Ammann family in Stellenbosch, on the southwest coast of South Africa. Long a grape grower and wine producer, Kurt Ammann took the family farm organic in the mid-90s, and then went even further by going biodynamic back in 2001. In the process, the Ammanns have significantly enhanced the soil on the farm. Nothing in a biodynamic setting is taken for granted, and the Ammann’s work is no exception. Nathalie Ammann, Kurt’s daughter, shares,
We have been farming organically since 1994. Our main focus was Biodynamics, but I also did a Permaculture course quite some years back and really loved the way design was used to integrate living with your landscape. We still draw on Permaculture practices from time to time when relevant. Sustainability and a holistic approach in everything we do remains our firm principles and we are very proud of the fact that we have not used any chemical fertilizers or pesticides on our property for almost 25 years.
Their work in the fields is inspiring! My own study of permaculture has been intensifying over the last few years and I was excited to find out that people whose product I already loved had been applying the principles!
The vinegars start with natural conversion of the Ammann’s already well-made and nicely-matured wines. The process protects the flavors of the wine as well as the natural health benefits of the vinegar. The herbs are then added to the vinegar and the infusions are allowed to mature another four or five years. The total maturation is about 12 years, all done in oak barrels. The results, as I said, are superb! Imagine maybe a great balsamic, but with a bouquet of additional flavors—many unique to South Africa—enhancing its excellence. The complexity, the soft, round, sweetness, the long lingering finish are all there in force. They’ve got big, slightly tingly, subtly sweet, fantastic flavors with great complexity and very long, lovely, finishes. Michael Harlan Turkell, author of the terrific book Acid Trip, says,
In the tradition of the Bordeaux wines they make, Rozendal’s vinegars are serious but spritely. What started as a “bad” batch (of wine) in 1988, felicitously began decades of great vinegar making in South Africa. Using the traditional French Orleans method, these vinegars ferment slowly and mature in oak, served with a little residual sugar, they leave a lasting impression on the palette, but never overwhelm.
We have four Rozendal Vinegars in stock as I write. All are amazing; Fynbos is my favorite.
- Fynbos Vinegar – infused with an array of the region’s herbs and flowers: South African honeybush, buchu, wild olive, wild rosemary, and rose geranium.
- Hibiscus Vinegar – with rosehip with elderflower and vanilla bean.
- Green Tea Vinegar – with chilis, carob, lavender, kelp and bay leaf.
- Lavender Vinegar – infused with organic lavender grown right on the farm. Makes a great reduction for lamb.
The Ammann family served these special vinegars for years only in their restaurant. Happily, a decade or so ago they released some for the rest of us. All are great on salads, for sipping, mixing with a bit of soda water for a non-alcoholic aperitif, or marvelous for marinades. The amazing designer Eva Zeisel once said, “Beautiful things make people happy.” These incredible vinegars certainly fill the bill. Even the tiniest sip will turn my day around for the better, and I’m confident they’ll do the same for you. In a year where we need all the positive inputs we can gather up, these are safe, sustainable, healthy, and happy ways to add to the quality of your life! Enjoy!