It had been a while between visits to our friends at Augustus in El Vendrell, Penedes - home of the very special Forvm vinegar. Many of you will know and enjoy their delicious Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon vinegars as they have been staples of our range for many years now and are a world apart from the tart, mean vinegars which often occupy bottles of the same variety.
Their small beautiful property with distant sea views right on the Via Augusta has been subject to many offers by developers over the last few years as the area has grown in popularity, but they have resisted and continue to make their prestigious range which include wines under their label Augustus we have noticed on many good Spanish restaurant wine lists.
This is another small family operation - and unusually before the days of IVF - there are two sets of identical twins. We were greeted by Albert, who visited us in NZ a couple of years ago, his father Josep and his twin brother Oriel. Albert is the marketer and Oriel the viticulturalist. Josep the father is still very involved but has been hampered for many months by a knee replacement with complications which then worsened because he decided to get back on the tractor anyway - which was probably the reason he needed one in the first place...These are men of the land and work for a living! The other twins are girls who we have not met, one of whose artwork decorate many walls and barrels around the property. Another character around the place was a rather large 14 year old cat, called simply 'Cat'. Apparently there used to be a dog as well which just disappeared one day. They rather wondered whether 'Cat' had eaten it.
We had, remarkably enough, arrived at lunchtime and Albert had been in the kitchen assembling quite a few combinations he suggests with his delicious product which we enjoyed looking out over their rows of vines, all named after the Roman emperors, accompanied by a selection of their wine, of course.
The dishes Albert had put together included: good tinned tuna drizzled with the Forum Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar (try this with the or tuna), cured salmon drizzled with the Chardonnay vinegar, tuna carpaccio with the Cabernet vinegar, crostini topped with tinned foie gras with a reduction (just boiled down in a small pot) of the Chardonnay vinegar, thin slices of Manchego cheese drizzled with the Chardonnay vinegar and anchovies with the Cabernet vinegar. Later there were strawberries macerated in the Cabernet vinegar. All very simple to do and very nice.
After lunch we revisited the ancient low stone houses dotted amongst the vines where they house and age their oldest vinegar and inspected the room of barrels which houses the main part of the production. They tell us that the quality of their vinegar is so high because they start with good quality wine, oxygenating the wine for some months to acetify it then topping up the already aging vinegar in barrels, aging it again and drawing only a certain percentage from each one as they go.
However they do it, the result is appreciated worldwide and has featured on the menu of 12 Nobel Peace Prize Awards dinners. Described as 'agridulce' in character we can also recommend both simply mixed with plain or infused extra virgin olive as a salad dressing, a liquid to deglaze a pan with - or either are great mashed into on toast!