Every winemaking season we put aside a few buckets of grapes to make delicous syrupy vincotto – also called vinicotto or vino cotto. Although vincotto translates as “cooked wine” the version I’m familiar with isn’t alcoholic – just a sweet reduction of fruit juice. We make a big batch using freshly pressed grapes but we have also experimented with bought, bottled grape juice and found that it works well. I recommend that if you use bought juice, you look for a preservative free one or else you will be concentrating the preservative too. Just 100% dark grape juice. Organic juices seem to give cleaner flavours than the cheaper stuff in plastic bottles but experiment with different brands to see what works best.
To make vincotto all you do is simmer grape juice over a low heat for several hours, until it is reduced to a syrupy liquid. Then bottle in clean bottles and store – it keeps well and improves with age. We found a seller at a farmers market with vincotto that had been aged on oak and tried this ourselves. The oak adds another layer of flavour that is pretty interesting, so I recommend trying it out. You don’t need a barrel, just get some oak chips used for winemaking from any homebrew store or from Amazon here. Tie the oak chips in the end of a stocking or a scrap of muslin. Put this in a big jar, and fill it with vincotto. I’d use about 1tbsp of oak chips per 1 liter/2 pints, and give it a stir every week or so to distribute the flavour. Taste it often and take out the oak when it tastes right.
How To Use Vincotto
Use vincotto anywhere you’d use maple syrup or similar sweet dressings. We eat it drizzled over pancakes or buttered crumpets, or with icecream and stewed fruit. You can use a dash of it in any savoury dish that needs a little sweetening for balance too – sometimes I’ll add 1/2 tsp to a rich pasta sauce or meat stew. My personal favourite though is polenta wedges with cream and vincotto. This would be part of my last meal – the intense sweet/tart/caramel flavour of vincotto powers through soft buttery polenta with cool whipped cream to contrast – I’ll write up the recipe tomorrow!