Ari Weinzweig is the co-founder of Zingerman's and the author of Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating. When we asked him about his favorite product, here's what he had to say:
Pretty much everything that’s behind the Rozendal label is exceptional. Long a grape grower and wine producer, Kurt Amman took the family farm in Stellenbosch on the southwest coast of South Africa organic in 1994, then biodynamic in 2001. From the method of conversion from wine to the decision not to pasteurize (to protect the positive acetobacters) to the many years of patient maturation to the careful selection of herbs and flowers for the infusion into the vinegar—flavor, spirit, and environment are all honored in the Amman’s work.
Fynbos vinegar starts with natural conversion of the Amman’s own well-made, nicely matured wines. The natural conversion takes months and protects the flavors of the wine and also the natural health benefits of the vinegar. The herbs are then added to the vinegar and the infusions are allowed to mature another four or five years. Fynbos is infused with an array of the region’s herbs and flower—South African honeybush, buchu, wild olive, wild rosemary, and rose geranium. The total maturation is about 12 years, all done in oak barrels.
The results are superb! Imagine maybe a great balsamic: the complexity, the soft, round, sweetness, the long lingering finish, all are there in force. Then there's big, slightly tingly, subtly sweet, fantastic flavors with great complexity and a very, very long, very lovely, finish. It's so good that you can—and I have a number of times—sip it straight from the bottle. Like sipping a super long aged bourbon, there’s a loveliness, a long lingering sweetness, vanilla undertones from the oak, a succulence and smoothness that’s hard to explain. I’m starting to think it should be called “kissing vinegar”—truly, kissing anyone who just sipped it would be a pretty sensual (sorry if I’m getting anyone blushing) experience.