Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Revealed

An allure and mystery has shrouded certain aspects of the production of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena in secrecy for centuries. Dating all the way back to to1394, an edict for privacy was decreed by the guild of acetai (vinegar makers) over the highly sought-after fermentation process. Hundreds of different methods and recipes have been tested and developed throughout the years in an effort to replicate the fragile balance between sweet and sour that can only be found in Premium Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.

The process of making authentic balsamic vinegar is long and arduous, beginning exactly when the grapes are perfectly ripe. The ripened grapes are harvested until they are ready to be crushed and pressed into a juice known as mosto. The mosto is then cooked in open pots over direct flame, simmering until it becomes an intensely sweet concentrate, reduced in volume by half or more. As the liquid simmers, the sugars released from within the grapes caramelize ever so slightly, giving the liquid a subtle amber hue. Referred to as mosto costo, this unfermented juice is cooled, in accordance to strict traditional methods, and transferred to a batteria, an assortment of precious wooden casks, to ferment, evaporate and age for a minimum of no less than 12 years (only Traditional Balsamic is aged for a minimum of 12 years, not the Premium) often far exceeding this time frame by decades.

The fermentation of the vinegar takes place in a progression of wooden caskets to allow for the complex enzymatic activity to occur. The casks are only filled between 66 and 75 percent capacity, as the vinegar requires sufficient air for the oxidization process. During the course of the first year, the liquid stands to lose between 15 and 30 percent of its volume through evaporation. With the progression of each year, the casks are topped off with contents of the next largest barrel, while the largest barrel of the lot is replenished with the newly cooked must. Referred to as rincalzo, the process of topping off is typically done during the coldest part of the year, when bacterial activity is low. This illustrious aging method allows the distinguished vinegar to acquire the complex character that marks its superiority. Fluctuations in temperature serve as a catalyst for allowing the balsamic vinegar to achieve its density and character. Unlike wine, balsamic vinegar benefits from extreme temperature disparities. Modena, Italy's sweltering summers and cold winters provide the ideal climate for its famed premium balsamic vinegar.

With each passing year, the vinegar is transferred into smaller barrels allowing the vinegar to mellow and attain the intensely aromatic and sweet flavors it is prized for, there are no additives to this alluring flavor. Balsamic Vinegars of Modena are solely made of grape must and wine vinegar. Finally, the vinegar is passed off to the Consortium of Producers in Modena to receive the coveted CABM certification, which proudly rests on the collar of every authentic bottle.