How to visit a traditional balsamic vinegar producer in Modena – Emilia Romagna – Italy.
Emilia Delizia can take you to tour a traditional ACETAIA as we call the traditional balsamic vinegar producer here in Modena. Most visitors will be surprised by the difference between the “regular” or industrial balsamic vinegar and the DOP traditional balsamic vinegar that it is produced only in private houses in Modena and Reggio Emilia. Traditionally a batch of new balsamic vinegar was only started at the birth of a baby girl and it would become her dowry when she would marry. In the past centuries the aceto balsamico was only used within the family and sometimes given to important guests. It is said that the Duke of Modena had his own important vinegar attic, in his palace, important people would be introduced to the delights of the black gold when visiting Modena by the ducal family. As part of our tours we can take people to visit private villas and houses where this black nectar is still produced in small quantities in the most traditional way.
How Balsamic vinegar is made in Modena.
Traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is made from initially reducing organic grape juice (must) to about 30% by just simmering the product for about 24 hours, this is to increase the sugar content in the juice. It is important to never reach the boiling point in order to preserve the friendly bacteria that are already present in the liquid. This is done at harvest time between September and October the grape must is obtained from Lambrusco and Trebbiano grapes. To age the vinegar a set of barrel is required. A mother barrel usually the lager in a set of 4,5 or 6 increasingly smaller barrels, all made of different woods such as acacia, ash, chestnut, mulberry, cherry.
From this moment in autumn it will take at least 12 years of painstakingly topping the evaporated must from the last but one barrel to the last one, and the repeating the sequence from the last but two to the last but one and so on until the mother barrel is then topped up with fresh grape must. No vinegar will be drawn for at least 12 years to obtain at least the “younger balsamic vinegar”.
How to use traditional balsamic vinegar.
The tradition wants that the precious black nectar obtained by the natural concentration of the flavours is used as a digestive at the end of the meal. It is best consumed on plastic or ceramic spoon as metal it is very cold and it would lower the sensory experience.
12 years old traditional balsamic vinegar.
It has more acidity than the other vintages and the sweetness is more subtle. You will soon find out that the favours of the woods are felt on different parts of your tongue and mouth. This balsamic vinegar is particularly indicated on fresher cheeses such as ricotta or mozzarella. You can also add to meat or fish dishes. The important that is used sparingly and only added the end of cooking.
The extra old vintage 24 years old traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena
The acidity decreases and the sweetness is more present, but it is not a flat sugary sensation, it is actually very complex. On your tongue you feel the taste of the blended wood tannins such as the spiciness of juniper or the sweetness of the cherry wood. At this age it is a perfect match for aged cheese such as Parmesan or even for desserts: straberries, chocolate and ice creams.
28 YEARS OLD VINEGAR and over – Only in the Reggio Emilia province.
Only produced and marketed at this age in the Reggio Emilia. At this point the vinegar has lost a lot of its acidity and it the wood and the sweetness becomes even more accentuated, almost like a sweet complex black nectar. It is best consumed at the end of the meal as a digestive.
The province of Reggio Emilia is also a producer of Traditional balsamic vinegar due to the proximity to Modena. The tradition was brought in Reggio Emilia as many women were marring across the 2 provinces bringing their dowry with them.
During our Balsamic vinegar tour it is possible to visit Reggio Emilia producer and discover the 3 ageing typical of the area. If you want to learn more about Reggio Emilia culinary tradition please continue reading here.