Modena is an ancient town in the centre of the Emilia-Romagna region. It’s the place that gave to the world Enzo Ferrari and his fast machines, Luciano Pavarotti and his moving vocals; and, last but not least, the traditional balsamic vinegar and its sultry taste. From the Middle Ages to this day, this artisan product has been valued by food lovers who can’t help being seduced by its deep taste and sweetness.
The process to make traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is complex and it’s preserved under the European Protected Designation of Origin system. During a visit to the Acetaia di Giorgio in Modena, I had a chance to get a glimpse into this long tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation. Their production is ran from the attic at their house, since the process to make this precious vinegar requires the heat of the summer months and the cold during the winter time.
As required by the protected origin denomination (D.O.P.), the process starts with the cooked must of local Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes harvested in the region. The liquid is then poured into a series of barrels over the years, starting with the biggest barrel in the set; which it’s called the mother barrel and it usually has a female name. The minimum number of casks in a series is five. They are made from high quality local woods, such as juniper, cherry, oak and chestnut; which influence the flavour of the end product.
Every year, a small amount is taken from the smallest and last barrel in the series; which is then refilled with more vinegar coming from the preceding barrel in the set. The mother barrel receives then new cooked must to keep the process going. All barrels have a hole at the top to ease the inspection and maintenance process, which remains covered with a piece of cloth.
The minimum aging time for traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is 12 years, with the more refined and exclusive vinegar being aged for over 25 years. Also, according to my hostess Giovanna, after 40 years of aging the product reaches a plateau and it doesn’t get any better. She also warns about large scaled imitators trying to market their products as being the real deal.
Fortunately, one easy way to tell if you are getting the authentic traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena is by making sure it comes in the patented 100 ml glass bottle designed by Giugiaro. Other characteristics that differentiate this balsamic vinegar from the rest are its sweet and deep taste and its thickness. If you’d like more information about the Acetaia di Giorgio, you can visit their site here.
My visit to the Acetaia di Giorgio was part of the BlogVille project, an initiative organised by the Emilia-Romagna Tourism Board. To learn more about the project and what the Emilia-Romagna region has to offer, please visit their site here.