Kimberley Wine Vinegar is made using old-world production methods known as Orleans process. This world-renowned method is named after the French town of Orleans, known as “the city of vinegars.” It was at Orleans on the Loire River, an important inland shipping route that wines becoming “piques” (beginning to bite or sour) were unloaded from boats to be delivered to local vinegar producers. In the 16th century the vinegar makers of Orleans received official recognition for the quality of their work through royal patents. These patents clearly defined the production conditions required to use the name “Orleans process,” thereby suppressing poor quality vinegars from using the designation.
The Orleans process dates back to the Middle Ages and requires the following three criteria:
- The selection of excellent wines based on grapes that have a delicate and subtle bouquet; Kimberley vinegars are made from California varietal wines from the Alexander family and local wineries.
- A natural transformation of the wine into vinegar; oak barrels are partially filled with wine and select bacteria are keep at a constant temperature and in complete darkness.
- Traditional aging; the vinegar is left to mature or age (the same way as good wine) for a minimum of 12 months further in large wooden barrels in cellars before it is put on the market. In contrast, industrial vinegar production uses huge aluminum tanks to transform wine into vinegar within 24 hours.
Kimberley’s slow fermentation produces vinegar of exceptional quality. Ventilation holes in each barrel allow normal air currents to carry off fermentation by-products, avoiding the bitterness found in some vinegar. The Orleans process preserves the vinegar’s distinct wine aroma and flavor because it involves no heat – heat that destroys the delicate perfumes and minerals of the wine.
In addition, Kimberley does not add preservatives to the vinegar, nor are they pasteurized; a common practice that increases shelf life, but degrades subtle taste characteristics.
Kimberley vinegars balance rich, wonderful hints of robust wine flavor with just the right amount of acidity. To preserve freshness, store the vinegar in a cool dark place or refrigerate after opening.
How Kimberley Vinegar is made…
Watch Kimberley owner and vinegar artisan Tom Alexander explain how vinegar is made to University of the Pacific Food History class.