On Rozendal, the family farm in Stellenbosch, Nathalie Ammann uses the traditional French Orleans Method of vinegar preparation, passed down by her father, Kurt. Vinegars are made from a Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet grape cultivars, and cultured by an indigenous “mother” from the first vinegar made on Rozendal in 1988. The vinegars are naturally fermented in small oak barrels, then infused with organic herbs carefully selected for their culinary and health-enhancing properties, and the resulting vinegar is matured for up to 12 years. A balance of sweetness and acidity yields a balsamic-style vinegar, fundamental to cooking and a robust tonic.
It all starts with a good, well-balanced wine. We have been making wines since 1983 in the old world French-style, a Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. One could say that all wines would naturally become vinegar if it wasn’t for human intervention, but not all wines get the chance to become Rozendal Vinegar! It is quite a shift from making wines to making vinegar, but it came about as a happy “accident”, and as Kurt Ammann would say, “life has taught us what to do and how to move forward”. The word “vinegar” comes from the French “vinaigre” which means sour wine. This suggests that vinegar should be made from wine and indeed some of the best vinegars are. Strictly speaking, however, vinegar can be made from any substance with alcohol and sugar. We make our vinegars from oak barrel-matured red wines that are chosen for their complexity of flavours as well as their ability to mature over a number of years.
The conversion from wine to vinegar is the responsibility of bacteria known as “acetobacter”, fondly referred to as the “mother”. It is up to the Vinaigrier to create favourable conditions for these vinegar bacteria to operate optimally to allow the conversion of alcohol into acetic acid – the primary component of the finished product. The quality of the final product is directly linked to the quality of the wine used, and the time allowed for the final vinegar to mature and soften into something that is good enough to drink.
At Rozendal we use the traditional French Orleans Method; an ancient method and slow process which produces some of the best vinegars in the world.
The secret of our vinegars is in the selection and combination of herbs. Once the wine has been converted to vinegar it is infused with individual herbs in small oak barrels. These infusion barrels had been “working” for at least 12 years when Kurt, founder of Rozendal Vinegar, began his experiments with the various herbs. No vinegar barrel is ever empty, rather vinegar is drawn off and new vinegar added to ensure there is always some of the character of the original vinegar. A unique Balsamic-style vinegar is the result.
Small batches are bottled using a gentle gravity-flow system. Natural cork closures allow the vinegar to breathe, evolve and mature further while in the bottle.