The Making of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Reggio Emilia
Updated: Sep 8
As an introduction to Artful Journey's Balsamic Tour with Umberto Sidoli, a balsamic producer at Cavazzone, let's delve into how traditional balsamic vinegar (TBV) is produced.
All balsamic vinegar is derived from a thousand-year-old process developed around Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy. This type of balsamic (from here on referred to as TBV) is produced traditionally with Trebbiano and Lambrusco's grapes and put through various processes that eventually result in a rich, glossy, and flavorsome authentic balsamic vinegar.
The first step of making TBV is harvesting grapes, which is then pressed and cooked to the concentration of a sugary syrup that comes from simmering the crushed grapes to evaporate any water. This thick, sugary reduction is called grape must, or mosto cotta. The must is then transferred to a large special barrel called the badessa, where it undergoes alcoholic and acetic acid fermentation over several years.
After this initial stage of fermentation and the vinegar has reached the right acidity level, it is moved from the badessa to the sequentially smaller batteria. These smaller wooden barrels are used for aging, and each barrel is typically made of different fine woods like chestnut, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash, and juniper.
As the vinegar ages, it acquires certain flavors from the woods. The wood's porous structure enables the vinegar to lose moisture very slowly over time, resulting in a more concentrated, flavorful product.
Barrels of traditional balsamic vinegar tends to be stored in an attic that enables evaporation and increased sugar concentration during warmer weather, and sedimentation during the cooler season.
Each season, a part of the contents of each barrel is transferred to the next smaller barrel, while vinegar from the smallest cask is finally extracted to be bottled for sale.
The final step to making TBV is presenting your product to an official panel of judges who will assign a category based on the quality of your vinegar, which will be used for pricing.
The entire aging process takes at least 12 years, so given the tremendous effort and time it takes to make a traditional balsamic vinegar, is it any wonder that the price is surprisingly high?
To read about Cavazzone's traditional balsamic vinegar specifically, visit their website at https://www.cavazzone.it/en/vinegar/.
Allyshia Tran, Artful Journeys Virtual Intern
Allyshia is an Aussie born, aspiring Public Relations Student who is completing her final year of study while interning for Artful Journeys. With music, art, and beauty being some of her passions, Allyshia thoroughly enjoys singing, writing, and visiting Australian museums and art galleries (when a global pandemic hadn’t taken over our lives) whenever she isn’t swamped with school assignments. She sincerely hopes you enjoy her upcoming blogs, and please leave comments in reply to them!