In this edition: Nikos Panopoulos on the Neolea Balsamic Vinegars.
What is October all about for you?
Mainly harvest! Grapes have just been harvested after a summer full of sun absorption which means that the latest harvest grape juice is becoming available. To produce Balsamic Vinegar, we need grape must which is slowly reduced grape juice. This year’s harvest was severely impacted by the presence of downy mildew, a disease that has destroyed a large percentage of the crop. Although we can source grape juice and vinegar throughout the year, harvest season is when we get insights in our costs, availability and of course quality.
Typically October is a little bit slower in sales which allows us to plan ahead but also to get creative and work on new methods as well as flavors!
How crucial is harvest season in the total of events that take place throughout the year?
I’d say it's very important for us. Grapes are a natural product so harvest season is always impacted by weather conditions. Next to quality, this can affect price significantly too! When you age a product for three years during which many things can change, you need to fully control pricing to prepare the customers for any changes that may occur. We may not produce balsamic vinegar each year and we try to keep prices as stable as possible!
What is the one thing that food professionals could benefit from knowing about your job?
I’m aware that many people still call balsamic vinegar an Italian product. I think it helps to understand how small the Mediterranean actually is, especially compared to the United States. Culture and tradition throughout the region was created during centuries of travel and because of this, we share more culture and history than sometimes we even acknowledge ourselves. Sure, all products originate from somewhere however with time, this knowledge travels. Being outside of these protected origin regions often allows you to innovate and perhaps even improve on these traditional products and so as a Greek I’d say, try our balsamic vinegar and I’ll try your feta cheese!