Caramba! Olive Oil and balsamic vinegar: from Modena!
We attend lots of local events for information please contact us!
What our customers think:
"Very helpful company offering high quality balsamics, I was very pleased with this and others I have bought. if you want to talk about the product you are interested in this lady is very helpful and informative. I have never been disappointed in anything I have received, the quality is excellent; with anything, you get what you pay for."
Julia from Kent
2 great reasons why we offer you these products?
- 1. They are tasty and may be healthier than some other salad dressings
- 2. They may encourage our customers to eat more vegetables which is recommended for a healthier lifestyle
Other reasons for purchasing these products:
- They are made with great care by our artisan producers.
- Quality is important to these producers
- We know their provenance and quality.
At events we talk to our customers, they can taste everything we offer and judge for themselves before buying. The taste speaks for itself and the packaging is in eco-friendly reusable bottles which means that we're looking after the environment in every way we can.
Our recent batch of artisan Caramba! Balsamic vinegar from Modena is aged for at least 8 years in barrels. The balsamic is looked after by Paolo in his "acetaia" in Modena during all this time.
Some years these artisan balsamic vinegars are thick and syrupy because the temperatures in the farm's loft, where the barrels of balsamic vinegar are aged, are allowed to increase and decrease naturally with the seasons.
However, some are less dense but have such a sweet rounded taste that they are just as good as the denser ones. They're amazing! and have completely natural ingredients: just grape must and sherry wine vinegar. No additives or preservatives or E-numbers or caramel.
This means that each batch of this artisan balsamic vinegar has a unique flavour but this is the beauty of it: it's artisan!
and ideal for your food hamper from our Caramba! SHOP
Provenance of our Extra Virgin Olive Oil:
By consuming Oro Del Desierto's and Imperio Verde artisan extra virgin organic olive oil not only will you enjoy its wonderfully smooth taste ; you are also contributing to a sustainable environment because:
- It is certified organic: no nasties at all
- The farm is solar powered
- Rafael uses the left over olive pips to heat the farm in the winter after this wonderful extra virgin olive oil is carefully pressed.
- He also saves water by irrigating underground at night through thick pipes.
Quality of Olive Oil:
A sign of a quality olive oil is the way it is produced.
Rafael in Almeria picks the olives for this lovely artisan extra virgin olive oil in early November to ensure that the olives are whole and haven't quite fallen to the ground so they have few cuts and bruises! The advantage of this is that they would oxidise and cause the phenols and flavour of the olive oil to become bitter.
What do phenols do?
They go around the blood dissolving the cholesterol and when they get to the liver they get rid of it
Rafael has his own olive oil mill too, which means that, the olives for the artisan olive oil can be pressed and bottled within 7 hours of harvesting. This means that you get a fresher tasting olive oil for your artisan food hamper.
Quality of Balsamic
How can I tell the quality of a bottle of balsamic?
- The best way is to look at the label's ingredients
- Balsamics come in all types of qualities because it is a product aged over many years. In Modena many families make artisan balsamics and these are all slightly different in density and flavour even from batch to batch.
Why is Age no longer shown on labels?
Many people may think that quality is directly linked to the number of years ageing but this is by no means the only way to tell “quality” in balsamic and age is not shown on labels due a EU law preventing producers from using age to guide the price. The reason is that because of the way balsamic is made the final product is of slightly different ages. More on this later.
So how can the consumer know what the quality is and hence a guide to the price they are paying?
The differences in perceived quality depend on:
1. The amounts of wine vinegar and grape must used to make the balsamic
2. The years it’s been ageing
3. Types of woods used for the barrels
4. Density of the balsamic : thick or thin
5. Whether additives, preservatives, caramel, E-numbers are present or not.
6. Expertise of the producer looking after it for many years
The best option for the consumer, at the supermarket, is to just look at the label
Here is where very few people know how labelling works:
Bylaw the order (first, second, third) of the ingredients in a food label is a guide to the amount of each ingredient and this little known fact is what is crucial when you want to know if it is a good quality balsamic.
Firstingredient = the most of…
A. Best quality:
Only ingredient: grape must – (just the cooked grape - nothing else
Over £45 per bottle and with a unique consortioum of Modena number to trace the bottle.
B. Better quality:
The label for this quality of balsamic will have the ingredients as follows:
Ingredients: Grape must, wine vinegar.
In that order – do not confuse with labels that say:
Ingredients: wine vinegar, grape must. This is totally different because it contains mainly wine vinegar!
C. Cheaper quality:
Ingredients: Wine vinegar, grape must.
This means that there is more vinegar than cooked grape.
This small difference means that the better balsamic may be slightly sweeter and more full bodied and have a higher price than the this one which could, in fact, be mainly wine vinegar with just some grape must; this one tends to be in the cheaper ranges.
Then, in the scale of perceived quality we are now scraping “the
bottomof the barrel”
These are the balsamics which are not only mainly wine vinegar but also contain caramels and E-numbers on the label. These additives do make the balsamic sweeter but they are additives after all. The sugars added are needed to take the edge off and the other additives are needed because the product hasn’t been aged enough to come out of the barrel and remain stable so preservatives are needed so it doesn’t go off!
Thesebalsamics are not aged.
So now you know about the quality, of course it is personal taste but at least now you can make an informed decision and understand what the labels really show and why there is such a wide range of prices out there.
How balsamic is made:
First of all we need to be clear about how natural balsamic is made in Modena. Balsamic is made from grapes; these are cooked into what’s called a “grape must” and then placed in barrels to age like wine or whisky. For a balsamic from Modena to be deemed worthy of the word “balsamic” it needs to be aged at least six years. This is a long time to look after a product but it’s worth it because the end product is better quality.
Types of woods used:
Asthe balsamic mixture or “must” is ageing it is transferred through a series of barrels. The barrels can be made of precious woods such as chestnut, oak, mulberry, cherry and many others depending on the producer. The order may be “their secret recipe” in many cases. However, we’re looking at ways to tell, just from looking at the label and the barrels used are never documented on the label. So what could we look for next?
The regulating authorities in Modena have banned the use of “years” in labels of true balsamic which has a protected origin because, in reality, the final product is always a mixture of different years. This happens in the natural process of production because only some of the mixture is transferred from barrel to barrel each year. So in fact, the final product is not all made up of ingredients aged for a fixed number of years. As a guide producers are allowed to use “coins” or “diamonds” or just a number to indicate longer or slightly shorter processes of production before draining the product and bottling it. That’s why some labels have say: “number 3” balsamic or a “number 7” just as a guide but not an exact number of years; this was deemed to be slightly misleading because it could never be a completely true statement for the whole batch in any case. So what next: let’s look at the density or thickness.
The density of a balsamic depends mainly on the temperatures it has been under during the production process. The more artisan balsamics are made in the lofts of the vineyard and are allowed to warm up to the summer temperatures in a given summer and to cool down to whichever temperature occurs naturally in the winter. This means that one summer it may be very hot, a lot of moisture may evaporate and then the balsamic turns out to be thicker and may taste different than, say, the previous year’s batch which may have been under cooler temperatures. Other producers prefer to control slightly the temperatures in order to produce a similar density and taste each year maybe because they have a brand which the consumer expects to taste the same each time they buy a bottle. But again sometimes this is not a real guide to the taste and quality of the balsamic in the bottle on that shelf.
In terms of density, some balsamic style products have added thickeners and these may be called balsamic glazes. These are often in plastic bottles and can contain caramels and other additives.
All balsamics will contain sulphites because sulphites are a by product of anything aged in barrels. The same as wine or whisky, this is just a natural by product of the ageing process. With the higher quality balsamics the sulphite content is so low that it doesn’t even need to be on the label.
Wine vinegar to grape must ratio
Really the only option available to the consumer just looking at the label is to look at the ingredients.
Balsamics on the supermarket shelf can have a wide ranging variety of ingredients and this can get slightly confusing. Few consumers really know how ingredient labelling works for balsamics.
Here is a quick guide to help you find out what quality you’re looking at just from the label.
The initial ingredients in the production of natural balsamics can be either:
acombination of: grape must and sherry wine vinegar.
The labels which only have grape must in the ingredients indicate that only the cooked grape was aged in the barrels and no sherry wine vinegar was used in the process. These are often considered to be sweeter but they can come in all sorts of densities too. Some people perceive these to be of a better quality.
However, some people find them too sweet and may prefer balsamics with some acidity for a more rounded taste.