I think the Domain Day Balsamic Vinegar story is a classic Barossa one. It is a story of how Barossa winemaker Robin Day turned a wine making error (not his!) into a foodie’s delight.
This is Robin’s story in his owns words……
“There is a legendary story about the famous winemaker, Peter Lehman. When he was a youngish winemaker at Saltrams, a lady from the group he was showing through the winery asked, “Young man, do you make vinegar?” to which he replied, “Not intentionally, madam.”
People often ask me how I make my vinegar, and I reply that I don’t actually make it, cellar hands do it for me!
So it was with our first vinegar back in 2004. I discovered two barrels of 2004 Saperavi in my barrel stacks at the contract winery where I made my wine, with the bungs out of the tops, several months too late. The wine had a very healthy film of vinegar bacteria on the top and it was highly vinegarized, but with a nice clean flavour. I fronted the manager and poked him in the chest, informing him that this represented a hit of several thousand dollars, and asked what he was planning to do about some form of compensation.
In his defence, his inaction was understandable because his dilemma was exactly the same as mine. A volume of 600 litres was far too small to be sent to a distillery and it was not permissible to run it down the drain. After several months, I decided to sweeten it a little with some grape juice concentrate and it sat in the corner of the barrel storage only to be remembered once a year or so, when it was sampled, tasted and used in a trial salad dressing. My favourite use of our balsamico is to simply drizzle it over fresh oysters.
We began selling it at the Barossa Farmers Market almost four years ago, alongside its “mate” our Vino Cotto. This was a creation based on a magical elixir called jeropiga (‘Jeripego’, ‘Jeripico’, ‘Jerepico’, ‘Jerepiko’, ‘Jeropigo’ ) which we used in fortified wine blending to augment the sweetness and caramelization of a tawny blend.
Vino cotto is concentrated grape juice cooked through to the caramelized stage, it’s essentially unfortified jeropiga. It’s very “moreish”, decadent and extremely versatile as a desert drizzle, in Asian sauces and in salad dressings.
About a year ago, I was asked if I would make a small blend of white balsamic for a salad dressing. When I showed it to Marco of Café 41, just opposite our cellar door in Williamstown, he said “Mate, you have to do this, you’ll sell heaps”. It has become a very useful alternative for simpler salads.
The future of Domain Day Balsamico is secure and will probably depart this earth when I do, because winemakers will always have the same dilemma with the odd misadventure causing a barrel to become vinegarized. In the last two years I have been donated five barrels of lovely vinegarized Barossa red wine by winemakers who couldn’t distill it or run it down the drain”.
You will find Robin and his wonderful vinegars each Saturday morning at the Barossa Farmers Market, you can’t miss him in his magnificent red cap and blazer!
He also offers some wonderful free recipes and advice on how to best use his Barossa Balsamico, White Balsamico and Vino Cotto.