But it isn’t a balsamic vinegar. And it definitely isn’t an olive oil.
What is Saba? Also known as sapa, mosto cotto o vino cotto, saba is a special “cousin” of sorts to balsamic vinegar.
An ancient Italian condiment, saba is a sweet, dense syrup that is created using the same methods that make your favorite balsamic.
You ‘must’ remember this.* Like balsamic vinegar, saba is made of grape ‘must’ (freshly-pressed grape juice made from the entire fruit: it contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the fruit). Made from Trebbiano or Lambrusco grapes (just like balsamic), the saba grape must is slowly cooked in a copper cauldron and reduced until it is about 1/3 its original volume.
Saba looks like the darkest dark, syrupy balsamic, but has a unique taste that is all its own. (Hint: it’s delicious.) One chef describes saba as a pantry must-have, with a taste “slightly acidic and decadently sweet.”
This natural condiment is a good match for savory dishes like lamb or Brussels sprouts, and can cut the strong flavors of more heavy, gamey dishes, like liver and wildfowl.
One of our favorite uses for saba is to pour a little over a couple different varieties on a cheese plate. Try it with Parmigiano Reggiano, gorgonzola, or even a mild burrata and see what you think!
Saba Grape Must Reduction ($16.50/bottle) is delicious drizzled over fish, vegetables or salads. It’s great as an accompaniment to desserts — a drizzle on plain ice cream or shaved ice brings a bit of sophistication. A drop or two on fresh stone fruit or melon brings out new fruit flavors. It’s an awesome addition to sauces, too.