As you delve deeper into making – and aging – balsamic vinegar of Modena, you are overwhelmed by the craftsmanship and care that goes into creating this remarkable product.
Farmers and artisans have been making balsamic vinegar for centuries. Traditionally, small growers would often start a cask or barrel of wine must on the birth of a daughter, which would then serve as a dowry on their 18th birthday. While this tradition is no longer practiced as frequently as it was in the past, the harvesting and aging process remains faithful to its traditions.
Most commercially sold balsamic vinegar consists of a mixture of aged wine must and wine vinegar. While IGP certified and labelled balsamic vinegar has independent third-party controls, an IGP balsamic vinegar can contain wine must that has been barrel-aged ONLY 60 DAYS. In other words, the density of IGP balsamic vinegar of Modena can vary significantly and impact on quality of the dining experience. Most commercially sold balsamic vinegar consists mainly of wine vinegar with a very low density (it is watery rather than syrupy).
Condimento or balsamic vinegar labeled condimento (literally translated condiment) has no third-party certification process and its content is determined by the grower/bottler. This is not to say that condimento is in anyway inferior to IGP-certified balsamic vinegar, it simply means that you need to trust your supplier.
Balsamic vinegar is aged in a series of wooden barrels called a battery. Each year – normally in February – the oldest barrel in the series is topped up with wine must from the preceding year – see video and a longer explanation below.
The larger barrels tend to made of oak, while the middle years of the battery are generally made of chestnut wood. The chestnut tree is commonly found in Emilia Romagna. Softer woods, like cherry, are then used in the final six years of the aging process: years six through twelve.
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