Oil & Vinegar encompasses what it means to be a wholly artisanal shop — the small store sits on North Main Street in Downtown Greenville, and although it’s a franchise, there are less than a dozen in the United States.
As the name suggests, the shop has dozens of different oils and vinegars sourced from small farms across the world — in Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and South Africa. The oils range from the smoky garlic grapeseed to peppery black truffle, with vinegars ranging from peach apricot to red onion.
Veera Gault and her husband opened the store in 2013 after deciding between Greenville, Savannah, Georgia and Hilton Head for locations. Gault landed on Oil & Vinegar, whose headquarters is based out of the Netherlands, as the store she wanted to open. The closest Oil & Vinegar stores to South Carolina are located in southern Florida and Texas.
“We took a couple of walks up and down Main Street, talked to people, fell in love with Greenville and decided to move here,” Gault said.
Gault, a former culinary professor at Johnson and Wales University, uses each of them to craft new recipes for her customers — by blending blood orange oil and strawberry rhubarb vinegar, she makes a sweet dressing to top a summer salad. By adding small amounts of her fruity vinegars to seltzer water, you get a light drink without the pungent taste most often associated with vinegars.
“The concept is to provide the best quality, best health benefits in simply made food that is artisanally made,” Gault said. “So, yes, you can buy what the label says is extra virgin olive oil in a grocery store, but then you can buy oil here and you can taste the difference.”
Gault’s store acts similar to a winery — customers can taste the different oils and vinegars and blend them together before deciding to buy a pair.
“There are olive oil sommeliers just like there are wine sommeliers, and you can learn to taste oil and look for all the different kind of components and make-up of the oil, and whether it’s got the right polyphenol or antioxidant counts in them — you can taste them by the way you taste the oil,” Gault said.
For Gault, it was important to own a store where she could cater to customers with all ranges of cooking skills.
“We do a lot of pairings, and we match an oil and a vinegar together to give you an idea of what you can do with it as a salad dressing, as a marinade, or even just to cook with,” Gault said. “Many of these, I’ll cook fish, chicken or something with them and you get a really flavorful and healthy meal with relatively little effort.”
Customers choose between dozens of oils and vinegars before choosing the glass bottles they want to store them in — Gault always bottles the oils and vinegars separately because they contain no preservatives, although they will still last on the shelf for about 18 months.
“We sell our oils and vinegars in separate bottles so that you can actually mix and match them when you go home, but the biggest reason we sell them in separate bottles as opposed to combined is because our oils have no preservatives in them, and the acidity of the vinegar destroys the oil within a five to seven day period without preservatives,” Gault said.
Although most people are likely accustomed to buying unflavored olive oil, Gault’s flavored oils are some of her best sellers.
“They’re what we call ‘fused flavor oils,’ so like our basil oil — they take basil and olives and they crush it all at the same time,” Gault said. “So you get this really nice, intense basil flavor in the oil that isn’t added to the oil after the oil is made, it’s added to the oil while the oil is being made.”