We hope that our range of balsamic vinegars will have something to suit all tastes and wallets: from the finest, highly prized traditional balsamics of Modena, to more everyday vinegars.
How is Balsamic Vinegar Made?
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is made from the juice of freshly crushed white and red local grapes, slowly boiled down to about a third of the original volume - after which it is then called "cooked must". This "cooked must" is then carefully acetified in wooden barrels for a number of years.
The cooked must is added to the first and largest barrel out of a battery of seven or eight barrels made of different woods: typically oak, mulberry, cherry, chestnut and juniper. In order to help the must ferment some good wine vinegar is added, and thenleft to mature through natural annual cycles absorbing the flavour of the wood. Once a year some of the fermented must is transferred down from barrel to barrel as new must is added to the first barrel of the battery. This process requires skill and patience in order for the vinegar to acquire the necessary flavours of each of the wooden barrels.
How Do We Know the Age of a Balsamic Vinegar?
Most aged balsamic vinegar is sold by reference to "years old" i.e. the number of years spent in a wooden barrel, however although it gives an indication of the the age of the vinegar it is not accurate as it is impossible to be certain of the exact number of years due to the annual topping up process described above.
The overseeing body for balsamic vinegar production, the Consorzio Produttori assigns a 12 year+ vinegar as Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena and 25 years+ as Aceto Balsamico di Modena Extra Vecchio without reference to exact years. The criteria for judging and selecting include: colour, density, sweetness, clarity, acidity, depth and balance, and it is only through experienced handling and proper aging that these criteria can be met. The final approval is given via Consorzio tasting panels and the vinegar is then bottled in specified small round bottles with numbered DOC seals. These are the best balsamics available, and naturally are expensive. Less expensive balsamic vinegars that are still genuine and well made come under the wider definition of Aceto Balsamico di Modena.
Condimento Balsamico is a fairly new name for "unregulated" balsamic vinegar whose producers choose not to be bound by the strict rules relating to bottle sizes and the selection procedures of the Consorzios. These producers stake their reputation on the quality of what they produce.