It’s not often that most home cooks will encounter vinegar beyond a salad dressing, or soaked up by a loaf of crusty bread. But French cuisine calls on vinegar far more often, and more creatively too – in sauces, in stews, in marinades, or even a few drops over a dish just before serving. Just as you might finish a beautifully cooked plate of seafood with a squeeze of lemon, so the right vinegar brings every flavour to life and really makes them shine.
Used for centuries as tenderiser and preservative, natural acidity is also an underrated seasoning and a well-kept professional secret. It balances salt and sweetness, creating harmony on the palate and bringing all the flavours on your plate sharply into focus. As celebrated chef and restaurateur Bruno Loubet explains, “both citrus and vinegar will lift the flavours, but citrus has a very clean, fresh, direct impact on the dish while vinegar is far more complex. It adds layers to the dish.”
“When I worked with Raymond Blanc he would tell us, ‘add a touch of vinegar to the sauce… it will bring up all the flavours. You don’t want to taste the acidity, you just want to push the flavour. This is just a little help.’”
But before we all reach for the nearest bottle of balsamic, it’s important to think about the type of vinegar too. Beyond just seasoning, a complex, flavourful vinegar can bring its own substance and subtlety to the soirée. Great flavour should take you places, and as it happens, we know of a perfect location...
Made with rare, partially-raisined grapes from the misty region about 40km south of Bordeaux, Sauternes dessert wine is the result of a precise blend of climates that occurs (on a good day) between the River Garonne and tributary the Ciron. These elusive conditions make it one of the world’s most distinctive, highly-prized varieties of wine. It’s also an intriguing companion to countless meals, whether in a wine glass, in our seasonal Sauternes mustard – or now in a smooth, aromatic vinegar with hints of honey and hazelnut.
Because we believe all the best things in life should be available on tap, our élégant new Sauternes vinegar is available at London’s first vinegar bar, served straight from aged barrels that lend extra depth to its mellow, fruity flavour. Try it at each stage of your cooking; from simmering with shallots and lifting buttery sauces to creating zingy salads, slaws and pickles.
A memorable gift, a dinner party offering and a gorgeous addition to your own kitchen, Maille Sauternes vinegar is presented in a black ceramic bottle with an original Antoine Maille label dating back to 1787. Vinegar as a gourmet seasoning might be new to many of us, but like all our favourites, it’s a taste steeped in culinary history.