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Top Pick Of The Week

November 2, 2004

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Pear Gorgonzola Salad
A great vinegar can transform simple ingredients like pear, Gorgonzola, fig and chopped pecans into an memorable dish. Photo by Kelly Cline.
WHAT IT IS: The finest artisan fruit vinegars.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Crafted and aged like fine wines, these vinegars lose all burning acidity: they are aged to a beautiful mellowness.
WHY WE LOVE IT: These are secret ingredients of great chefs. Aside from incredible flavor (and virtually no calories), you don’t have to do much to make a dish taste great.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Lepicerie.com or from the producer at Gegenbauer.at.


Gegenbauer Vinegars:
A League Of Their Own

The Viennese firm, Brauerei Gegenbauer, makes the best fruit vinegars in the world. Why do we make such an absolute claim? Because we can’t imagine anything better.

The biggest challenge is finding them. Most people couldn’t conceive of spending $20 to $45 for an 8-ounce bottle of vinegar that isn’t balsamic, so most stores don’t stock them. These bottles are worth tracking down like culinary diamonds, however (and fortunately, you can buy them all from the company’s website). Like aged balsamics dropped sparingly on a plate, a few drops of these vinegars—a splash in a sauce or a salad—makes the everyday taste extraordinary.

If the concept of “fruit vinegar” doesn’t resonate, you’ve had it before. While, granted, almost all vinegars in our cuisine are made of grapes, which are fruit, think more along the lines of apples (but not of the generally strident cider vinegar most of us get—try Gegenbauer’s Golden Delicious cider vinegar) or the lovely raspberry vinegar. Gegenbauer takes not only raspberries, but 17 other fruits including apricots, black currants, blueberries, figs, plums, quince, sour cherries, tomatoes and more. This is one orchard where you should stop and pick [up] the fruit.

Elegant Food

Michael Mina Roasting In Hell's Kitchen The Complete Keller
Michael Mina: The Cookbook, by Michael Mina. The San Francisco-based celebrity chef specializes in the trio concept, in which a master recipe is followed by three flavor variations. A crispy loin of pork can be served with an orange/carrot, apple/sage, or tomato/corn combination of accompaniments, e.g. Although the flavor combinations create a sense of complexity, the recipes themselves are simple. Delicious and fun. Click here for more information or to purchase. Roasting in Hell's Kitchen: Temper Tantrums, F Words, and the Pursuit of Perfection, by Gordon Ramsay. Not a cookbook, but a glimpse into the world of haute cuisine via the autobiography of world’s most famous and infamous chef, who happens to turn out some of the finest food on the planet. Escaping a difficult childhood, he trained under famous chefs and built his own Michelin-starred empire. Click here for more information or to purchase. The Complete Keller: The French Laundry Cookbook/Bouchon, by Thomas Keller. Keller’s two best-selling cookbooks are packaged in a slipcase gift edition. Given how tough it is to get a reservation at his eateries, this may be as close as most of us get. The cookbooks are so beautiful and glossy, it’s almost a good substitute. Very well-written, easy-to-follow recipes. Click here for more information or to purchase.

Gegenbauer Vinegars: A League Of Their Own

INDEX

 

During antiquity, alcoholic liquids commonly turned to vinegar after a period of storage. But the ancients drank the vinegar as well: We know that 4,000 years ago, sour beer was consumed in Mesopotamia. Later, the Romans enjoyed a sour-tasting drink called posca, a mixture of vinegar and water that was enjoyed until the 20th century as a thirst-quencher and energizer. The Romans made vinegar of figs, grapes and special cereals (vinegar can be made from any fruit or grain). Old writings mention that vinegar brewing was a secretive profession and today, many vinegar producers still keep their methods secret. Brauerei Gegenbauer, however, will happily give you a factory tour.

Brauerei Gegenbauer was founded in 1929, largely producing sauerkraut, gherkins and other vegetables preserved by vinegar. During the hard post-war years, problems with vinegar deliveries led the company to produce its own vinegar. About 20 years ago, Erwin M. Gegenbauer, Jr., grandson of the founder and a wine connoisseur, developed a passion for making fine fruit vinegars. that became an obsession to create the highest-quality vinegars on earth. The vinegars are made like fine wine: Pure, all-natural fruit juice is pressed from the finest fruit and brought to alcoholic fermentation with cultured yeast. During the fermentation and maturing period, the wine is constantly monitored for both temperature and oxygen supply to create optimal living conditions for the bacteria. After the fermentation, the vinegar is stored in glass carboys,* until it is ready to be slowly matured in small oak barrels, where the sediment is removed several times over a five year period. This meticulous artisan production results in the highest quality vinegars.

*Also known as demijohns, large bottles with short, narrow necks, usually encased in basketwork or a wooden box.

Many companies make the “best in the world” claim: Just taste a Gegenbauer vinegar and you know you need search no further. There’s no dearth of gourmet vinegars on the market, but these vinegars are in a league of their own.

Vinegar Barrels

The Gegenbauer Vinegar Flavors

We first met Erwin Gegenbauer at a trade show, where he was dispensing his precious vinegars with a medicine dropper, from the bottle to the tongue of those lucky enough to stumble across the opportunity. Tongue out, we patiently waited for each of a dozen flavors to be dropped. So delicious they were, we smacked our lips and would have gladly drunk a shot from each bottle. (Or at least, we would have loved to have seen how far we could have gotten with these luxurious vinegar shots. One of Erwin Gegenbauer’s friends, Kurt Gutenbrunner, who owns the wonderful Austrian restaurant Wallse in New York City, serves some of them in liqueur glasses as digestifs, at the end of the meal).

At Brauerei Gegenbauer makes about 18 fruit vinegars. If you come into some money and can buy all of the vinegar flavors, here’s what you can revel in:

  • Apricot
  • Asparagus
  • Black Currant
  • Blackberry
  • Blueberry
  • Cucumber
  • Elderberry
  • Fig
  • Golden Delicious Cider
  • Melon
  • Pear Williams†
  • Plum
  • Quince
  • Raspberry
  • Red Pepper
  • Rowanberry
  • Sour Cherry
  • Tomato
Vinegar

†More correctly, Pear William, but spelled this way by the company.

A drop of Gegenbauer vinegar can accent almost any dish. Here are three suggestions from a line where every product is remarkable:

  • Black Currant Vinegar. Most fruit vinegars are just white wine vinegars infused with fruit flavoring. Gegenbauer uses fruit wine: the juice is pressed from black currants and fermented into vinegar. The result is a complex flavor that dazzles any salad and pairs beautifully with steamed vegetables and hard cheeses like Manchego, Pecorino Toscano, and Parmigiano Reggiano. Add a few drops to mineral water for a sophisticated change.
  • Red Pepper Vinegar. Red peppers are fermented into “wine,” which then undergoes the traditional fermentation and aging. The taste of sweet red pepper explodes on the tongue. Use this vinegar to finish vegetable soups, to complement fresh goat cheese, and to make sprightly composed salads. A dash gives Bloody Marys a special new dimension.

Gegenbauer Vinegars
Black Currant, Red Pepper and Noble Sour P.X. Vinegars.

  • Noble Sour P.X. 1996. This is a vinegar so elegant that by law it no longer has enough acid to be called vinegar. Thus, Gegenbauer calls it a “Noble Sour.” The basis for this elixir is the Pedro Ximenez grape (P.X.)—used to make the sherry of the same name—from the 1996 vintage. For a delicious sauce, deglaze your pan with some water, add stock, reduce, whisk in some cold butter, and season with a few drops of Noble Sour P.X. But perhaps the best way to enjoy the Noble Sour is to drink it in a liqueur glass as an after-dinner digestif. It is a memorable, alcohol-free finish to a great repast. No one will mind being the designated driver.

Gegenbauer Vinegar Lineup

There are quite a few recipes on the Gegenbauer website, which can be as complex as baked goods or as simple as marinating fresh apricots in the Apricot Vinegar to create an elegant fruit side for meats.

Gegenbauer has developed accoutrements to finely measure the precious vinegar and prevent waste. The Pourer dispenses drops at a time instead of a torrent from the mouth of the bottle. The Sprayer allows you to embellish a dish at the last moment with a perfumed mist of fine vinegar, and distributes the flavor onto a larger area. Both are terrific tools, but fit only onto Gegenbauer bottles (they’re available at Lepicerie.com).

If you’re traveling to Vienna, do visit Brauerei Gegenbauer in the 10th district for a guided tour. You’ll never look at vinegar the same way again.

—Karen Hochman

Gegenbauer Pourer
Vinegar Pourer
Gegenbauer Sprayer
Vinegar Sprayer

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to your favorite connoisseurs...or to anyone who needs to buy gifts for them.

GEGENBAUER VINEGARS

Gourmet Fruit Vinegars

  • Red Pepper Vinegar
    250ml Bottle
    $22.00
  • Noble Sour P.X. Vinegar
    250ml Bottle
    $42.00

Purchase online at Lepicerie.com

The full line is available online at
Gegenbauer.at

Prices and flavor availability are verified at publication but subject to change. Shipping additional.

Gegenbauer Vinegar
Gegenbauer vinegars: as noble as any Grand Crus.

 

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