Vincotto, which translates literally as “cooked wine”, isn’t actually a reduction of wine but of the unfermented crushed fruit and skins of dark grapes, known as “must” (vincotto is also known as mosto cotto or “cooked must”). What results is a light syrup with a sweet and sour flavour, known in Italian as agrodolce, and this perfect balance makes vincotto equally at home in sweet and savoury dishes. In classical times, it was used in tandem with honey as a basic sweetener before sugar cane took centre stage. These days, vincotto is generally used in the same fashion as balsamic vinegar: for dressings, de-glazing and drizzling over fruit and dairy-based desserts. It also makes a refreshing summertime drink when added to chilled soda water. Some brands of vincotto are sharper and less syrupy than others so it’s worth trying out a few to find one that suits your palate. Also available infused with fruits such raspberry, lemon, fig, apple, quince and even coffee.
1. Roasted stone fruit bruschetta with vincotto cream
Combine 150 ml double cream with 1 tbsp vincotto and sweeten to taste with sifted icing sugar. Place halved, seeded stone fruit on slices of buttered sourdough. Sprinkle liberally with vanilla sugar and dot with butter. Roast until golden, then serve with vincotto cream.
2. Whipped vincotto butter
Beat 125 g soft unsalted butter and ½ cup sifted icing sugar until light and fluffy, then add 2 tsp vincotto. Shape into a log on a piece of baking paper, roll up and twist ends to seal. Place in freezer until frozen. Return to room temperature and re-whisk before serving. Serve with crumpets, toasted brioche or hotcakes.
3. Vincotto and quince glaze
Combine 1 tbsp quince paste, 1 tbsp vincotto and 2 tbsp chicken stock or water in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until melted and warm, then season to taste. Use the glaze to brush over a whole roast chicken, barbecued spring lamb or pork chops in the last stages of cooking.
4. Agrodolce shallots
Toss whole peeled French shallots in an ovenproof frying pan with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, thyme sprigs and a couple of unpeeled garlic cloves, then roast at 200°C until tender. Place pan on the stove, add a few tablespoons of vincotto and a small knob of butter, season and toss over medium-high heat until golden and caramelised.
5. Vincotto beets
The sweet earthiness of beetroot pairs beautifully with vincotto. Drizzle a little vincotto over baby beets before roasting with butter, olive oil and thyme; drizzle a little over chilled beetroot soup just before serving with a dollop of crème fraîche; or dress a feta and beet salad with vincotto vinaigrette.
Give your next barbecue an Italian twist with this finger-licking-good rib recipe.
7. Vincotto quail with kohlrabi, radicchio and parsley salad
Make your vincotto go further by using it to brush the barbecued quail until the skin is crispy, as well as making a tasty vincotto vinaigrette for the accompanying salad.
8. Sweet finish
For dessert in a flash, drizzle a little vincotto over lightly sweetened firm ricotta, scatter with toasted pine nuts and serve with vanilla-poached nectarines. A drizzle of fruit or coffee-infused vincotto also works wonders over a scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream or panna cotta.
9. Chocolate meringues with vincotto strawberries
The tang of the macerated strawberries cuts through the sweetness of the gooey-centred meringues. Could this be the ultimate sweet and sour dessert?
10. Crepe stack with vincotto and orange sauce
A little bit French, a little bit Italian – you're all set to impress with these crepes for brunch this weekend.
Photography by Benito Martin
Styling by Jerrie-Joy Redman-Lloyd
Silver tray, Michael Greene Antiques; oil flasks and milk bottle, Koskela; measuring flasks and bottle in foreground, The Bay Tree; back wall tiles, Onsite Supply and Design.
Have we got your attention and your tastebuds? It's all about Italian cuisine on this week's episodes of The Chefs' Line airing weeknights at 6pm. Check out the program page for episode guides, cuisine lowdowns, recipes and more.