Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and the "Acetaie"
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is still produced following the old techinques in the quiet of the “acetaie” in the Modena area, Emilia Romagna, thanks to a particular production process and after many years of aging.
The Italian word “acetaia” indicates the place dedicated to the long process of making and aging balsamic vinegar. Traditionally, balsamic vinegar was produced in private attics, very quiet places which were more exposed to extreme temperature changes. In fact, very cold winters favored the process of decanting vinegar, while scorching summers facilitated fermentation and evaporation, allowing for the production of an excellent vinegar.
Nowadays, Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is still produced following the old techinques. It matures in the quiet of the “acetaie” thanks to a particular production process and is ready only after many years of aging. The slow acidification of the grape deriving from natural fermentation and the progressive concentration in barrels of different woods, without added flavorings, gives birth to specialty balsamic vinegars appreciated all over the world.
But what is balsamic vinegar and how is it made?
Brown, dark, full and shiny, the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena has a dense and smoothy texture, with a distinctive aroma and a complex, sharp yet pleasant and harmonious acidity. In other words, a full-bodied syrupy with an inimitable well balanced sweet and sour taste.
Lambrusco Modenese and Trebbiano grapes are used for the production of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Through the processes of pressing and “mostatura”, the juice is separated from the grape stalks before the beginning of the fermentation. Once filtered, it is cooked on direct fire. After a slow and prolonged boiling, the cooked grape must (it is necessary a reduction ranging from 30 to 50 per cent) is removed from the boiler and left to cool.
The next step, called "hilling", is storing the cooked must in barrels. The process of decanting occurs in a series of barrels of different woods.
Finally, the vinegar rests for several years during which it is subject to various discrete inspections. The result will be two types of vinegar distinguished according to the period of aging: more than twelve years for the "classic" product and over twenty-five for the "extra aged" Balsamic vinegar (in the picture the varios stages of the production of balsamic vinegar).
There are many things to see in Emilia Romagna, and a week-end wouldn't be enough. But if you choose to visit this regione, Modena cpould be the perfect place to start your tour.
Modena and its province are an interesting area to discover. The last weekend of September, when days are cooler and terse, food lovers and curious people meet at the Acetaie Aperte. During this event, organized by the Consortium of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, 39 acetaie, the place where traditional vinegar from Modena is produced, open their doors to allow visitors to understand, appreciate and (especially) taste, one of the culinary excellence of Italy, balsamic vinegar, also combined with other local products, primarily the Parmigiano Reggiano.
The tour of Modena starts from the cathedral with its Ghirlandina tower, UNESCO world heritage site. On the religious reliefs of the façade the varios stages of harvest are represented: from the pressing of the grapes to the preparation of the wort.
The cradle of Balsamic Vinegar
The tour continues on the rolling hills of Emilia Romagna, where the producers who belong to the Consortium let you appreciate the differences between the various types of vinegars.
The tradition of producing balsamic vinegar dates back to the ancient Romans who used to cook the grape and drink it for its therapeutic properties. The first acetaie were created in the Este court in Modena, in 1289.
Only in the nineteenth century this elixir crossed the national borders and became one of the symbols of Made in Italy in the world.
If you have been conquered too by this delicious elixir, read more about how to use balsamic vinegar!