Gather Your Friends For A Balsamic Tasting Party

Wine tastings may be all the rage when friends are gathered, but have you ever considered gathering your friends for a Balsamic Tasting Party? A balsamic tasting can be a unique lead-in to a gourmet meal replete with Mediterranean food offerings flavored with unique herbs, whole wheat pastas, truffle oils and gourmet extra virgin olive oils drizzled over fish or poultry.

Choose from any of the balsamic offerings from O&CO. or the Modena balsamic gift set for your sampling party. There are also other types of balsamics to sample, including:

  • 12-year-old Tradizionale: These are easily distinguishable by their ivory caps that bear the initials DOP ((Denominazione di Origine Protetta). The “onion” shaped bottle also characterizes authentic Tradizionales.
  • 25-year-old balsamics are easily recognized by their gold caps, which also bear the DOP insignia.
  • 75-year-old Condimento is another type to try for a sampling event


Offer your guests a notebook in which they can take notes on the various balsamics they sample. You should begin the event with a visual comparison of the balsamic vinegar. The traditional way to evaluate a balsamic is through the flame of a candle. You’ll be looking for clarity, color and density.

  • The evaluation of color and clarity can be done by placing the bottle in front of the candle flame, angle it slightly and slowly rotate the bottle. The nuances in color range vary depending on the grape used to make the balsamic. The color and clarity range from amber to a dark or very dark brown. High quality vinegar should be clear and contain no particles or sediment.
  • Gently shaking and rotating the vinegar and observing the coating that forms on the bottle walls can measure the evaluation of the density of a balsamic. 12-year-old vinegar will have more of a water consistency while a 25-year-old variety will have the density of syrup.

 

Once all of your guests have had a chance to make notes on color, clarity and density, it’s time to move onto the olfactory analysis of the balsamics you’ve chosen. Gently shake the closed bottle, remove the cap and wave the bottle under your nose while deeply inhaling – this is akin to sommeliers when they swirl then smell a glass of wine.

Depending on the balsamic variety, a high quality one has a complex bouquet of fragrance and will offer an intense, velvety flavor. You’ll find a 12-year-old variety will have a more penetrating scent than a 25-year-old bottle whose scent will be more subtle and will likely offer up notes of the wood varieties of the casks in which it was aged. Your guests may notice the aroma of cinnamon, clove, ripe or wild cherry, vanilla, spices or even nutmeg.

Next you will move onto the tasting analysis. Offer each guest a small amount of the balsamic poured into a porcelain soupspoon or even a plastic spoon – metal or silver utensils can change the nuances of the vinegar.

Ask guests to note the flavors as they hit their palates. Do those flavors match the notes they’d found in the olfactory testing? The balsamics should be evaluated on the equilibrium and harmony in the flavors they’re experiencing. Ask each guest to make note of the differences between the varietals to compare with the other guests.

Following the analysis, it’s time to pair the balsamic with various food offerings. Set out a tray of classic foods with which to pair the balsamics – Parmesan cheese, strawberries, vanilla ice cream, fish or poultry or any of O&CO.’s whole-wheat pastas. Drizzle these foods with a couple of droplets of the vinegar and compare how the different-aged balsamics interact with the foods. Your guests may also wish to sip tiny amounts of the vinegars from small wine glasses.

Spend time comparing notes on the various sampling tests you complete. The subtle nuances noticed by some guests as compared to those noticed by others may lead to more interesting food pairings and will definitely lead to an increased appreciation for the beauty that are balsamics.