VINCOTTO – its uses and is it another fad?

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Do not assume that as an Italian I use Vincotto. I knew about grape “must” but not Vincotto and I wonder if Italians in Italy are using it and promoting it as widely as it seems to be in Australia.

You may have noticed bottles of Vincotto are appearing in gourmet delicatessens and Italian produce stores. Like Balsamic vinegar took over Australian produce stores a few years ago or Verjuice, Vincotto seems to be the new secret ingredient.

Literally translated it means “cooked wine” – and I am not talking about what my father used to make for me when I had a cold, boiled red wine with spices served hot. We called it vin brulé (Italian term for mulled wine).

The popular brand for Vincotto seems to be manufactured by a Gianni Calogiuri. It claims to be an ancient traditional recipe from the Italian region of Puglia, the heel in south-eastern Italy. The Vincotto is produces in Lizzanello (Lecce).

Vincotto is made from grape must (containing the skins, seeds and small stems of the withered, partly dried grapes from Malvasia and Negroamaro variety). These are cooked and reduced, blended and aged in oak barrels.  Like balsamic vinegar, the good stuff is aged for a number of years.

If made in Australia, Vincotto is made from a ‘must’ from Australian shiraz grapes. This is combined with high quality red wine vinegar and slowly reduced over many hours.

My first bottle of Vincotto was the Originale (original flavour). It has a sweet and sour taste and like a good quality wine vinegar so I used it in salad dressings and to de-glaze pans.

But now I am seeing many different flavoured bottles of Vincotto and I am finding it all very confusing.

At one of the specialised Italian produce stores I was given a “Carob Sweet Vinegar” and a Lemon Velvety Condiment” to try. The one made with carob suggests using it with carpaccio, fish, dried fruits and sorbets. The lemon one suggests to use it with fish, ice cream, desserts and cocktails. Thank you Enoteca Sileno.

I have two other different ones, both gifts from different friends on different occasions. I have a “Fig Vincotto Vinegar” and
“Lamponi (raspberry) condimento agrodolce”. Both of these have the statement on the label that they contain no added sugars. The one made with figs suggests: “Use it on meats, fish, soups, cheese and desserts”. The raspberry one: “excellent on meats, salads, sorbets, fruit and ice cream”. Thank you dear friends.

I am none the wiser by the suggestions made by the manufacturers, but I am especially enjoying the raspberry and the fig varieties in salad dressings – for example raspberry vinegar has been a common ingredient in English salads (I used to make it once!). I often add fruit or nuts, meats, fish or cheese to my leaf salads or I often combine roasted vegetables together so when I say “salads”, I am talking about composite salads. See:

Salade Composee
Composite salads.

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I like using Vincotto instead of wine or I combine it with wine when I de-glaze the cooking juices and food particles in the bottom of pans, especially those where I have cooked meat  – game meats especially. Last night I was pan frying some fish with bay leaves, saffron and caper berries and I de-glazed the pan with a mixture of white wine and about 1 tablespoon of lemon Vincotto. I am getting more adventurous and do not think that just because it is an Italian product that all Italians use it.

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I can see me roasting figs, apricots, plums or quinces with a splash of Vincotto and maybe presenting the fruit with cheeses and nuts. I cannot see me using it in ice cream or sorbets – this may come later.

Vincotto is also very similar to the middle-eastern Pomegranate molasses (thick, fragrant and a tangy reduction of pomegranate juice, boiled to a sticky, syrupy consistency). Over time I have used the molasses very successfully by experimenting and not just with middle-eastern ingredients. I guess that I will gradually begin to use Vincotto in similar ways but then again, it may be yet be just another passing fad.
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4 thoughts on “VINCOTTO – its uses and is it another fad?”

  1. Vincotto, also known as vino cotto in southern Italy, dates back to biblical times and enjoyed throughout the Mediterranean. It was used as a sweetener, since processed sugars weren’t available. Today it’s used straight from the bottle over everything from fruits, vegetables, meats to desserts, making it a versatile condiment to have on hand. It’s important to note that authentic vino cotto contains no vinegar or alcohol, but when used in condiment-grade balsamic vinegars, vincotto or cooked must is that delicious sweet flavor you taste. Vino cotto wasn’t readily available in the U.S., but now that it is, it’s here to stay.

  2. Vino cotto is very familiar to me as my mother would unfailingly use it in her pitte di San Martino, made before, and for, Christmas. For us calabresi it is not a passing fad but should be promoted and never forgotten. I have been told a cheats way to produce it when the cost per bottle is ridiculously prohibitively sky high that one can’t maintain one’s culinary traditions. I hope it never happens.

    1. Vincotto has been used throughout the ages in several regions of Italy (mainly in the South) and is highly regarded in those regions. It is also known as vino cotto (Calabria), mosto cotto and Sapa (Le Marche and in Sardegna). To make it properly it is a long process and the result is fragrant, dense and fruity and should not require artificial additives, preservatives, colouring, or thickening agent.

      I agree with you that it should not be forgotten and promoted by those who know how to use it.

      When I questioned if it is only just a fad I was drawing parallels with a condiment such as Balsamic vinegar – there are so many inferior types of balsamic vinegar on the market and promoted as being authentic. For a while In Australia Balsamic vinegar seemed to be used in everything and indiscriminately…. Mainly by those who had no idea that they were using an inferior product…. And this is what I was trying to express.

      Since writing that post (it was a while ago) I am using the vincotto to deglaze pan fried dishes, as I use wine or spirits, and I do not mind it one bit. I Have just looked up a recipe for Pitte di San Martino – how beautifully fragrant and I can see how the Vino Cotto would add to that. I hope that you can keep on buying it.

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