Method

The Azienda Agricola Czarnocki Lucheschi produces natural Wine Vinegars following an ancient tradition and using grapes exclusively from the family vineyards. The "Azienda" has selected during years old stock of acetic baterium that has always been used by the family to produce vinegar and which preserve all the aroma and perfumes of the wine during the acification process. The slow and natural acetification process of the wine is then completed in wooden barrels using the Solera system of the estate.

Red grape merlot, cabernet and raboso, varieties originating directly from very old varieties belonging to the farm enterprise, are used exclusively in today's vinegar production. This allows for a high dissolved sugar-to-water mass ratios (i.e. between 20 and 22 degrees Brix), a delicate acidity (i.e. between 6 and 7 g/l expressed in terms of tartaric acid) and an intense biologic activity during the acetifying processes. The vintage selection is therefore considerably important for the preservation of healthy grape conditions in the field and for ensuring subsequent development of fermentation without any stress and olfactive defects.The harvested grapes are transformed into must through a light pressing and filtering which undergoes a natural fermentation process during acetification. A portion of the must is reduced at temperatures lower than 45°C. The non-reduced product is then stored in variously sized oak barriques, for approximately 1 year, to allow the acetifying bacteria to develop It is then reinforced with a blend of fresh acetified must and reduced must, to feed and develop the acetifying bacteria during the vinegar ageing process. The reinforcement process is performed every year, preferably in spring, until the product is at least 6 years old. After the first 6 years, the vinegar is then subject to a second ageing phase of at least another 6 years, known as reserve. It is then poured into different sized barrels, ranging between 60 and 20 litre capacities, made of different wood essences according to the following sequence: chestnut, oak, cherry, chestnut, oak. Each year, the contents of the bigger sized cask are decanted into the smaller, next in line cask.

The grape varieties selected for production of Aceto "Sopraffino degli Estensi" are cultivated on the most suitable farmlands. The selected vines originate from very old varieties that are resident to our estate farms that feature high dissolved sugar-to-water mass ratios (i.e. between 20 and 22 Brix degrees) and delicate acidity (i.e. between 6 and 7 g/l expressed in terms of tartaric acid).This combination, promotes the intense and distinctive biologic activities during the acetifying process that are essential and integral to our manufacturing process. The selection of varietals is considerably important for ensuring that the fermentation development occurs without any stress and/or olfactory defects. We select exclusively the autochthonous grapes that are grown on-site and that feature a good polyphenolic structure and that have optimally synthesized soil nutrients. In addition, the healthiness and quality of the grapes is constantly monitored to assure a high level of consistency.

Acid-density ratio / Tastiness-sweetness ratio

The high acidity levels characteristic of Aceto "Sopraffino" and the moderate levels of concentrated sugars help assure that the product will not have crystallization problems that plague other producers. This is in sharp contrast to the high sugar to acid ratios targeted by the majority of producers today - levels that are often achieved artificially. In most other vinegars, there is "forced disharmony by design", with the aim of magnifying sweetness in the attempt to satisfy human's natural penchant for sugar. Because of this, products with low persistence due to an intentional focus on exaggerated sugar levels, sometimes in excess of 70 Brix, are increasingly flooding the market. The aesthetic behind Aceto "Sopraffino" is much different. Here we try to attain an optimal balance between acidity and sweetness and strive to achieve a Brix value not higher than 60. The pH value too is also a reliable indicator of product genuineness, with acid contents ranging between pH 2.95 and 3.15 pH. These targets produce a product that is perfectly suited for producing high quality sweet or salted cream dishes. It must finally be noted that even though actual acidity is lower in Aceto Sopraffino vs. Aceto Sopraffino Riserva (5.5% vs. 6.6% defined as the balance between total analysed acidity and product density) the perceived acidity is greater in Aceto Sopraffino than in Aceto Sopraffino Riserva! Definitely an interesting anomaly. These viticultural strategies are essential to the proper development of the acetifying bacteria and subsequent development of top quality vinegars. The care and nurturing of the fine, acetobacterium cultures are in fact one of the most important techniques for giving Aceto "Sopraffino degli Estensi" its distinctive character. Its processes are in sharp contrast with "forced" industrial manufacturing processes.The ancient art of feeding the mother bacterial cultures requires the optimization of intense biologic activity made possible through the use of distinctive farm species, in harmony with natural variations in temperature. During the hot summer months, acetification is triggered naturally and is managed by regular top-offs with younger products. This is actually one of the secrets of the antique technique, steeped in the traditions of the House of Este and the great culinary master Cristoforo di Messisburgo. This antique method of discontinuous acetification is carried on today without any artificial maturation techniques and continues up until the arrival of the first cold autumn weather, which marks the start of the slow, natural clarification and decantation processes. Creating the distinctive chemical-physical signature of Aceto "Sopraffino degli Estensi" and Aceto "Sopraffino Riserva" entails a long and complex process that alternates between phases of intense biologic activity followed by reduced activity while being aged in wooden barrels. This also helps to promote product concentration and natural product burnishing.

As specified for example in the graph below, the evolutionary dynamics for the Aceto "Sopraffino" vintage of 2003 show an initial, intense biologic development phase activated by the acetobacteria that are capable of increasing initial acidity levels up to over 30% during the first year. Over the following years, biologic activity slows down whilst the Brix increase (dissolved sugar-to-water mass % of a liquid, measured with a refractometer), involving processes such as evaporation, transpiration, salification, esterification, densification and many other phenomena that are still being studied.One of the effects that is directly correlated to the above processes is an increase in density, although this consequence is only of secondary significance. There are many other sensory factors that are used to assess product quality during its development. If we in fact compare the sensory profile of a product at its fifth year of development, it will be completely different when compared to its younger siblings and will show a marked increase of tertiary aromas and gradual loss of the fruity flavour typical of vinegar's produced from the boiling of musts.

What can be noted here is that there is a clean-cut separation between the two product profiles. It is also easier to identify the sensory features that become more prominent as the vinegars mature, e.g. persistence, which describes the overall complex envelopment of the tongue and palate with flavor for up to15-20 seconds, the tannicity, which is the typically astringent and puckery sensation on the tongue, and finally the spiciness, which mostly reflects the interaction with the various wood types during barrel ageing. As already mentioned, the product's physical properties also undergo an important evolutionary process. In fact, increased concentrations of soluble solids lead to increased product density with the associated formation of stable chemical compounds, including the formation of organic acid salts and complex esters and polymers. The analytic confirmation of these observations is given by the dry extract value minus the sugar contents. This parameter is a synthesis of all the molecules present in the product (minus the sugar contents) subject to the chemical changes specified under the refinement and ageing process. If the average grape must values (lying around 20 g/l) are compared with finished product values, significant increases of net, dry extract levels reaching values of over 100 g/l can be noted.

Thus there is a correlation between an increase in density and an increase in product viscosity, with associated enhancements in visual, taste and tactile qualities. The mellow brown colour is due to the natural development of the sugars, which occurs gradually throughout the summer months. This eliminates the need for the use of caramel additives (type E150 a,b,c,d) to optimize colour, which are in widespread use by industrial processers.

Sulphate Testing Analysis

The analytic sulphate testing results demonstrate that the raw material selection criteria and natural manufacturing processes result in substantially reduced sulphate levels. The levels turn out to be substantially lower than benchmarks set for organic wine agriculture and also limits set by the European Directive on allergens.

From our study report it is possible to understand the extent to which the raw material properties as well as the chemical and sensory methods of analysis are necessary for determining subsequent use, combination and blending.