We are sitting in the sun, glinting through the panes of what can only be described as an enormous industrial greenhouse. The young lady talking to us is of Venneri stock and her English is easy and fluid. Sporting a short French crop, a scarf casually thrown across her shoulders, she has a facile Italian style, so natural. She is passionate about her family’s environmentally caring heritage, recent modernisation and expansion plan. Her grandfather established the farm pesticide-free and they still farm that way today. Solar panels produce energy for the whole company. The Venneris want people to have confidence in the quality of their products.
We are sipping a thick, viscous touch of bliss, a delicious mix of fresh peach juice and almond milk with a dash of Vincotta Primitivo Balsamico. This is a rich, dark Balsamic style vinegar the family manufactures from reduced local wine Primitivo. Adding Vincotto Balsamico, naturally enhances the flavour of food.
The family have been working with nutritionist Alfredo Balliaro, whose focus is Nutrigenomics, the study of identifying and understanding molecular-level interaction between nutrients and other dietary bioactives with the genome. What I think this means is that it’s possible to tailor nutrition to the individual’s genetic make-up. For instance, we are told, local dish combination Ceceri é Trie (pasta and chickpeas) is supposed to be a very healthy combination.
Ms Venneri extols the virtues of their Vincotto products as being high in anti-oxidants. The farm comprises 10 hectares, of which 6 are given over to making vinegar under organic certification. 3 kinds of wines are used to make Vincotto. She elaborated, claiming that consumption of Vincotto Balsamico will prevent health problems and that mass manufactured Balsamic Vinegar contains e150D, a chemical caramel, seen to promote Cancer. Vincotto has no ‘e numbers’, being rich in polyphenols and anti-oxidants. Adding Vincotto to pulses during soaking can help eliminate undesirable flatulance. You will be able to see the gasses escaping from the mix, so keep adding occasionally by spoonful until this stops. It’s an excellent replacement for Balsamic as a salad dressing and is less expensive.
Next up, we sample Vincotto Ingentilito, great on meat and fish, we’re told. It’s a natural flavour enhancer unlike Balsamic Vinegar which can be too strong and shield the true flavours. Ingentilito is aged for only 6 months. It’s an excellent replacement for Balsamic vinegar, made locally from Salentino vinegar. It is combined with Primitivo wines and heated until the alcohol evaporates. Currently it exports to the UK, Spain and shortly to Japan.
Cuetto is an even sweeter version, a traditional recipe dating back to the 1800’s. High in iron, it is also good for coughs and acts like honey to soothe the throat. It is used in desserts such as Panacotta or over fruit.
Lastly we are shown the latest edition to the range, coming in a small bottle, a culinary glaze Glassa Di Vincotto. Ms Venneri explained that over-heating the product can change its molecular structure making it carcinogenic: slightly confusing after driving so hard down the healthy route. In the UK we think of a glaze as something we can put on food before roasting to change it’s appearance, so I challenged her on the product’s health claims which returned a rather frosty response! Hey Ho!
Enter Mrs Venneri….another pasta demo ensued. This time we all get a chance to have a go. The light has a very special quality, simultaneously hard, crystal clear, yet diffuse. We watch Mrs Venneri knead the pasta, fry it. Ms Vinneri gives us a run-down about the history of Saragolla Wheat. Originally brought to the Adriatic Coast by the Bulgarians in 400BC it was a low yielding, inefficient type, tall growing and susceptible to weather damage. The Vinneri family are attempting to grow this wheat again and the Tria Pasta we are making today is made with it.
Mr Vinneri’s passion is Succulents and Cacti. There is one entire greenhouse given over to them. Spiky and ferocious in shape, it’s strange to see so many in one place but I’ve always found them photogenic. Standing to attention in rows, they seem military.
I can only feel gratitude to the Venneri family for taking the time for just one day, to give us a glimpse into their life.
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