Balsamic Vinegar Tradizionale of Modena is with no doubts one of the italian most famous and fine product. Its production follows some very strict steps and rules and gives him the name of "black gold". I usually speak a lot about it during my food tours in Bologna as a lot of people like to bring it home as a foodie souvenir. But, as many awarded italian foods, you need to know what you're buying not to be fooled by the lots of different bottles with different names that you can find in almost all the shops.
But let's start from the beginning.
How it's made
The production of Balsamic Vinegar Tradizionale of Modena must follow very strict rules. The grape needs to grow only in the Province of Modena, and usually it's red and white grapes like Lambrusco and Trebbiano.
The result of the grape harvest is cooked for a few hours and then, when it's reduced of half its volume, it's put inside the so called "mother", a oak barrel of 60L.
Then every year in winter a small quantity of Balsamic is handly trasfered into a set of woodmade barrels (usually 5-6) of different sizes and woods like cherry tree or juniper, depending on the flavour you'd like to give to the balsamic.
The barrels are located just under the roofs of the old houses and they're left open on the top and covered: you can't imagine the flavours you get when you enter in one of those attics! After this process called "travaso" the producers send a sample of it to an authority that will determine if it can be bottled as Tradizionale (12 years aged) or Extravecchio (25years aged). Every year just 4% of all the barrels can be bottled.
A set of woodmade barrels for the production of Balsamic Vinegar Tradizionale of Modena
How to use it
Balsamic is a very expensive product so my suggestion is to use it carefully, maybe in special occasions, but not less than a teaspoon per time. The bottle, once opened, will last for years so there isn't any expiration date.
On cooked foods the balsamic should be added just before removing from the heat, to get enough time to flavor the dish and avoid the losing of its unique aroma.
Did you ever ask why is it called balsamic? It comes from a greek word that means solace, refreshment. In fact Balsamic vinegar was first used as a medicine against stomach diseases, so you can also sip it after a meal, by itself.
Giorgio of Acetaia di Giorgio in Modena holds a bottle of Balsamic
Where to buy it
If you'd like to buy a real Modena's Balsamic vinegar "Tradizionale" and "Extra vecchio" there's just one thing you should look after: the bottle. In fact it must be put inside a glass bottle of 10, 20 or 40 cl designed by Giugiaro which shape reminds both to Modena's Duomo and the barrel where the balsamic is stored. Keep a lot of attention because some bottles may look like the "original" one but they're not. The standard price is usually around 50€ for 10cl of Balsamic Tradizionale and 150€ for Extravecchio.
You can find the original bottles of Balsamic in a few shops in Bologna like Enoteca Italiana, Gilberto or Tamburini or inside one of our food markets. But if you have the time, I reccomend to go to Modena and visit a real Acetaia like Acetaia di Giorgio, very close to the city centre: you can go there for a free visit and tasting (also in English). I visited their house a month ago but I still have in my mind and nose the aroma that you get when you enter the attic.
Bottles of original Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
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