Everything You Need to Know: Balsamic Vinegar
What is Balsamic Vinegar of Modena?
Modena always was and is the undisputed Capital of Vinegar. Aged for even hundreds of years, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has been the hallmark of a tradition that has been handed down from generation to generation. The famous “Modenese Medical Vinegar” dates back to 1046 with written documents of Imperial or Papal celebrations. “Balsum” is Latin for something healthy for your body. Obtained by grape juice (must), instead of wine, that is reduced by cooking, a concentrating process, to obtain a very dense, syrupy liquid. Cooked must is placed in small barrels, where it ferments, slowly in winter, quickly in summer, causing natural concentration. Every year the content of each barrel is moved into another, smaller barrel made of a different wood (oak, chestnut, cherry, ash, juniper and others). After a minimum of 12 YEARS in barrels, the result is a very thick, rich, complex and very expensive vinegar. Costs can easily reach $1,000 per liter. By law, this product is called Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP.
Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, Italy, is a special vinegar dating back to Roman times. Instead of using wine, like other Italian vinegars, the product is created by using the cooked juice of the grape, known as ‘must.’ Our dark balsamic Traditional Style Condimento is the highest quality made in Modena from cooked, high quality caramelized grape must from Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. To be labeled balsamic the grape ‘must’ is cooked over an open wood fire. Solid extracts are placed in old, fired wood barrels, which have been used to age balsamic for years. These barrels become progressively smaller as the product becomes thicker and naturally evaporates over time. The barrels, as well as the product they once contain, add distinctive character to the ‘must.’ Nothing is ever added. Probiotic wild yeast and acetic bacteria naturally colonize, raising the acidity. Over time this mixture slowly ages and turns into vinegar. It takes a minimum of 12 years to produce approximately one gallon of balsamic vinegar from twenty gallons, thus the scarcity, distinctive taste and unique value of true balsamic.
Balsamic vinegar barrels are more expensive than wine barrels, thicker, made of a variety of woods: cherry, chestnut, oak, mulberry, and ash, to sustain the acidity of the aging vinegar. Our Traditional Style Condimento contains less than 5% high quality, barrel aged red wine vinegar from Modena. Caramelizing grape sugars in copper kettles is essential for quality and authenticity. Most producers in Italy use vacuum evaporation to concentrate the grape juice. This often requires adding dye to the grape ‘must’ to create a deep brown color. This practice, recently sanctioned by Italian law, allows producers to give the false impression that the ‘must’ was caramelized by cooking in traditional copper kettles. It is illegal in Italy, North America and most other countries to add artificial color or any other ingredients to a product and not disclose them on the label. Despite this, upwards of 95% of all retail products labeled "balsamic" contain caramel color and other added ingredients not disclosed on the label. Our Traditional Style Condimento and all of our infused dark balsamics are made using traditional methods and certified by third party Certificate of Analysis to contain no caramel color, thickeners, additives or refined sugars.
One taste is all it takes. Our Infused White Balsamic products are made with the highest quality Ultra Premium White Balsamic Condimento in the world. They are denser, richer, smoother, more complex, and naturally thicker than any white “balsamic-like” products found in North America. Our White Balsamic is naturally fermented; no sugars are added. White grape ‘must’ is blended with less than 10% Italian Barrel Aged White Wine Vinegar both made from Albana, Trebbiano and Montuni grapes which grow exclusively in the region of Modena, Italy. After being hand-picked, the specially selected grapes are left to dry in the sun (a very old artisan method) for 10 to 15 days. During this period the natural sugar, flavor, and body in the grapes deepen. The dried grape ‘must’ is cooked traditionally with care not to produce any caramelization, keeping the color light, then lightly filtered to remove skins and placed into new white oak barrels for maturation and aging to an amazing 1.28 density with 4% acidity. Free from additives including thickening agents, colors, dyes, and preservatives, this healthful “living product” is not heat pasteurized to preserve the healthful probiotics benefits associated with artisan fermented vinegar.