ABOUT BALSAMIC VINEGAR OF MODENA
Balsamic Vinegar saw its debut in the United States in the 1970s. Once introduced it was not until two or three decades later that the consumer became aware of this Elixir of the Gods. Unlike wine vinegar, there is a complex process that goes into making balsamic vinegar. The process begins with the grapes, to the maturity process which takes at least 12 years before it can be presented to master test tasters that follow strict guidelines or standards that must be met. The climate conditions of Emila Romagna (the province in which Modena is located), the soil, sun, and rains produce the finest distinctive taste in the grapes that go into the 12-year process to produce this product. This process is controlled by the consortium known as the Protection Name of Origin (Denominazione di Origine Protetta), commonly known in the industry as "D.O.P." and the registry that controls the process is known as the DOC, which is charged with the enforcement of the regulations governing the production of Balsamic Vinegar. It all began centuries ago in the province of Emila Romagna, and Modena the city within this province, which has become the hub for balsamic vinegar production. All the grapes used in its production must be cultivated within the province with the most commonly used being the Trebbiano or Lambrusco grape. Other grapes may be used, but the choice of most makers of this elixir use the Trebbiano or Lambrusco grape. The sourcing of the grapes for use in the production must also be registered with the DOC, which is a condition for the certification process.
When the grapes are ready for harvesting, the first step is to crush the grapes in preparation for the cooking process. The crushed grapes are referred to as "musto cotta" or "grape must", which is transferred into vats and gradually cooked to 30 degrees Celsius or 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Once they have reached their specific temperature it remains in the vats for one year. The vats are open and allow for the natural fermentation and evaporation process to begin. After one year, the batch is then transferred into the first set of wood barrels.
Each company has a battery of wood barrels, the most common woods are Oak, Chestnut, Cherry, Ash, and Mulberry. The particular company decides how long the musto remains in each type of wood barrels. During the twelve years and beyond, they decant and transfer the product from one set of wood barrels to another, each new set of barrels getting less than the previous set because of evaporation. Each set of barrels are open at the top to allow for this evaporation to occur. When the vinegar is transferred, approximately a third of it remains, which then mixes with the new batch of vinegar. When the batch reaches at least the age of 12 years it ready to go to market. However, in order to obtain DOP certification it must pass the requirements of the Commission of Master Tasters, which are part of the DOC and done at the commission's facility. The commission is also charged with the bottling of the product to further ensure there is no counterfeiting as is seen with Olive Oil. You may note the spherical bottle that has a rectangular base, which is not available for sale to anyone but the commission. This further helps to prevent counterfeiting of the product. Please note the seal on our product. Other notable attributes are the words "Affinato" which connotes old, while twenty-five year old bears the words, "extra-vecchio" or very old.
The DOP products are used on fruits, cheeses, meats, and fish; however, the favorite of the Culinary Counselor is Vanilla Ice Cream!