Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO is made with cooked grape must, using grape varieties that are typical to Modena, undergoing a lengthy and natural ageing process in small casks kept by families in the attics of their homes. The entire production process, from cultivating and processing the grapes, as well as ageing and bottling, must take place solely within the province of Modena.
Characterised by its deep and intense dark brown COLOUR, its DENSITY is expressed in its correct, flowing syrup-like quality. It is obtained from cooked grape must, aged through slow acetification, deriving from natural fermentation and progressive concentration achieved through extensive ageing in series of containers (casks) in various sizes and types of wood, without the addition of aromatic substances. It features a characteristic, complex and penetrating AROMA, together with an evident acidity that is agreeable and harmonious.
Its traditional and inimitable well-balanced sweet and sour FLAVOUR is generously rich and savoury with velvety nuances, in harmony with its unique olfactory characteristics.
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO derives from the fermentation of cooked must through specific strains of acetobacter, very often organised in bacterial colonies called “mothers”, and from the subsequent slow enzyme maturation which is completed after a long period of ageing, during which mainly chemical-physical transformations take place. The must used is mainly from the DOC vineyards in the province of Modena and from typical grape varieties such as Lambrusco, Ancellotta, Trebbiano, Sauvignon, Sgavetta, Berzemino and Occhio di Gatta.
How it is produced
Most sets consist of 5/7 casks, but it is easy to find producers with “Imperial” sets featuring 10/12/15 or more casks in a single set.
The liquid from the smaller cask is consequently refilled to approximately 2/3 full, taking some of the liquid from the immediately larger cask (this operation is commonly called “travaso”, or pouring).
There is no fixed rule regarding the number, capacity or sequence of the casks and the quality of the wood; each producer is free to form their own “acetaia” (vinegar cellar) using casks and types of wood according to their taste and the quantity of product they want to obtain. However, a set requires a minimum number of three casks: a large cask where the cooked must is added (and where the acetous fermentation takes place), an intermediate cask where the fermented liquid is transferred to mature and a third, the smaller one, where the mature liquid is transferred to be aged. The common trend today sees a series of casks made of various types of wood with decreasing capacities, starting from the largest cask containing the youngest product, to reach the smallest one destined to house the more mature liquid. As regards the types of wood, the general tendency is to use casks made of soft and porous woods at the beginning of the series, so as to promote the evaporation and acetification processes (for example chestnut). Subsequently, the smaller casks towards the end of the set are made with harder woods to preserve the aged product in the long term (for example oak and mulberry). Alternating the types of wood in the set helps to infuse the product with a unique character, giving it distinctive fragrances and aromas. The production follows the seasonal pattern: winter frosts give clarity to the balsamic vinegar and the scorching summer heat concentrates sugars, acidity and flavours, while the mild temperature in autumn and spring enable microbiological activities. Every year during the cold season, a quantity of product (on average 25-30% of the total content) deemed suitable for distribution is decanted from the smallest cask in the series. The liquid from the smallest cask is consequently refilled to approximately 2/3 full, taking some of the liquid from the immediately larger cask (this operation is commonly called “travaso” or pouring). The second smallest cask, in turn, is brought back to level with liquid from the third cask; this process continues backwards to the larger cask, which is topped up with the cooked must of the year (an operation called “rincalzo”).
These operations are fundamentally important to ensure that all the transformations can take place to create harmony among the flavours and aromas that make it an unparalleled, high-quality product.
How it is enjoyed
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO features aromas, fragrances and flavours that are able to satisfy even the most demanding palates. It is used as a condiment to add the final touch to a vast range of preparations, from the most refined and elaborate to the homeliest, simplest dishes. It has been used in Modena’s traditional cuisine for centuries, drizzled over boiled meats and vegetables, preferably while they are still hot.
More recently, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has accompanied raw and cooked fish and stewed and roasted meats. Many famous chefs use it in highly original ways, spanning from appetisers to desserts. Surprising results are obtained on ice cream and tropical fruits, strawberries and peaches.
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO reveals its territoriality, and the potential of Emilian gastronomy, when combined with shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese. It also manifests its universality and the right to occupy an important place among international culinary products of excellence.
A teaspoon of “Traditional Balsamic Vinegar” can be an unusual and highly original aperitif, as well as an excellent digestif at the end of a meal.
How to store
The product must be stored at room temperature (away from foods that give off peculiar and strong odours) in a glass container; it does not require particular care. All you need to do is ensure that the lid is closed; the product should be kept at room temperature.
Before the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO is bottled, by law, in the famous and unique 100 cc “Giugiaro” bottle in one of the two ministry-authorised bottling centres, it must be evaluated by a commission of expert tasters. These experts authorise its distribution after having ascertained that the product meets the regulated visual, olfactory and taste standards.
A numbered seal is then assigned to each bottle to guarantee the high organoleptic quality of the product.
On behalf of MIPAAF (Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies), the certification body surveys the entire production chain. This includes vineyard inspections, verifying that the registers are maintained for loading and unloading the grapes, as well as surveying the premises used for ageing.
The product can be found on the market in two age categories: Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO, aged at least 12 years, and Traditional “Extra Vecchio” Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO, aged at least 25 years.