Traditional Balsamic vinegar production is a most fascinating example of a never ending art process developing in very long time periods.
Minimum 12 years, minimum 25 years of aging imply that the product is handed down from generation to generation.
The ingredient of traditional balsamic, the cooked grape must is certainly a central element to characterize the product.
Cooked grape must is also the central and characterizing element of all our production. It’s the unique ingredient of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, Saba, Balsamosaba® and SONO Just for Friends.
Browse the phases of the “Art-Technique” of traditional balsamic
Trebbiano Modenese, Lambrusco, Sauvignon and Pignoletto are among the typical grapes of Modena that can be used for the cooked grape must for traditional balsamic, according to the tradition and according to the production law.
In vineyards we grow all our vines organically. We harvest them at full ripeness, to have the highest sugar degree, and then we press them gently.
Soon after pressing, before the fermentation starts, the must is cooked in open-vessel boilers on direct fire. This slow cooking, even 24-36 hours, allows the concentration of sugars and develops their aromatic components.
The big courtyard of La Cà dal Non is filled of the sweet perfume of the cooked must...
Traditional balsamic vinegar is aged in a series of decreasing volume barrels,made of different kinds of wood - the so called “batteria”, usually located in the attic of the houses.
Every winter the traditional operations of “travaso” and “rincalzo” are performed: the smallest cask of the series is refilled with part of the vinegar of the previous one and so on, till the biggest barrel of the batteria, where the new cooked must is poured. This continuous blending over years and years shapes the traditional unique flavour and texture of the traditional balsamic. The product to be submitted to the evaluation of the tasting commission is taken from the smallest barrel of each line after having repeated the “travaso” and “rincalzo” operations for a minimum of 12 years for the youngest product, and after a minimum of 25 years for the “Extra Aged”.
At least 12 and 25 years of ageing!
If you want to taste the unique charm of Traditional Balsamic vinegar of Modena you have to look for its 100ml certified bottle!
And once you got it, how to fully appreciate it?
Sip it pure on a teaspoon, drizzle on fruit, ice-cream, on meat or fish, just some drops to finish your dishes and to enhance their flavours... Check our suggestions on “Balsamico cooking”
Lambrusco, Trebbiano modenese, Sauvignon, Berzemino, Sgavetta, Occhio di gatta and Pignoletto. are the grapes of Modena used for traditional balsamic, according to the tradition and according to the production law. A high sugar degree is needed to obtain a rich and tasty cooked grape must, thus a late harvest is needed!
Autumn is a very charming reason, especially if you are in a vinegar farm. Vittorio, Giovanna, Michele and Mariangela are busy with harvesting and pressing the grapes. Before the raw must starts to ferment, it’s cooked in open-vessel boilers on direct fire. At the end of the cooking process, the must has a dark brown colour, a high sugary tone and a pleasant sweet fruity flavour and fragrance.
The production develops in the so called “Batteria” a series of decreasing volume barrels, made of different kinds of wood. After the first vinegar fermentation, all the barrels of the batteria are filled with cooked grape must.
The series of casks are usually located in the attic of the house, just under the roof, so to feel all the variations of temperature according to the seasons.
Years after years, the production follows the four seasons: cold in winter gives clearness to the product, deep warm in summer helps the concentration of sugar tenor, acidity and flavours. Mild temperatures in spring and autumn enables microbiological activities. And every winter the ritual operations of “travaso” and “rincalzo” are performed, a procedure similar to the “solera” method, that gives aging to the traditional balsamic and shapes its unique flavor and texture.
Traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is one of the most ancient products in the Modena area and certainly a vinegar unique in the world.
Its origins are lost in the mists of time. Scholars trace its birth back to the ancient Roman custom of cooking grape juice to make a kind of sweet molasses, called saba, used to sweeten food. A sort of grape honey.
Sometimes saba could begin a process of natural vinegar-fermentation… preserved, decanted, put into barrels… most probably it was this fermented saba that, over the centuries, gave life to our traditional balsamic.
References to the use of sweet and sour vinegars appear frequently in ancient literature.
The chronicles of 1046 recall, for example, how Henry III, coming to Italy to be crowned emperor, asked his vassal Boniface, marquis of Canossa, to bring him, as a gift, a small barrel of the precious vinegar they used to make in the area. We can’t say with certainty whether this vinegar was already the Balsamic that we consume on our tables today, but for sure it was its ancestor.
As centuries go by, the bibliographic references tends to move between Ferrara and Reggio Emilia, finally centering in the city of Modena in the XVI century (Benedetti, 1976).
In 1598 Modena became the capital of the Estense dukedom, at the time one of the most lively court in Europe, and it is in the ducal mansion that we find the first documents in which balsamic vinegar is specifically and detailedly mentioned.
In 1796, Napoleon’s French troops occupied Modena and dismantled the ducal “acetaia”, selling the barrels to the city’s wealthiest families.
Only after the year 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon and the coming back of the Duke to his town, the acetaia was started again. In the following years many documents witness the increasing renown of the product. A prominent figure in this period was Duke Francesco IV, who was an attentive admirer of his Balsamico.
The sovereign Vittorio Emanuele II – future king of Italy – visiting Modena on May 4, 1859, was so fascinated by the “black jewel” found in the attic of the Ducal Palace that he gave order to transfer the best barrels to his castle in Moncallieri, in Piedmont. These barrels were lost forever, but in the following year, as odd coincidence, the expert winemaker Ottavio Ottavi asked to the modenese Francesco Aggazzotti how to manage an “acetaia” (suggesting that the new environment was inducing the extinguishing of that special vinegar contained in the Ducal barrels).
The Agazzotti, taking inspiration from a XVIII century manuscript, wrote back a letter describing the traditional production technique. This letter became the methodological basis for producing the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aggazzotti, 1860; Aggazzotti, 1862).
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