Balsamic Vinegar (Aceto Balsamico) is a concentrated, dark, richly flavoured vinegar. Unlike cider and wine, it is not a by-product, but is instead made from scratch using specific ingredients.
It is very specific to two areas that adjoin each other in Italy, Modena and Reggio-Emilia, and according to the Consorzio Aceto Balsamico di Modena (Consortium of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena), it may not be made anywhere else in the world and use this name.
There are five kinds of grapes that are used to make Balsamic: Lambrusco (red), Trebbiano (white), Sangiovese, Albana, Ancellotta, and Fortana Montuini. While the ratio of grapes tends to stay the same, it is sometimes adjusted, to offset any season-by-season changes in the tartness of that particular year’s crop.
There are two certifications when it comes to Aceto Balsamico, which are based on the geographical element of the process:
Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)
This covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and
prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-
Protected Geographical Indication (PGI)
This covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area.
The process for Balsamico Tradizionale is very specific, in order to comply with the Consortium’s (Consorzio Aceto Balsamico di Modena) standards and conform with the PDO rules. The only ingredient in Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is cooked must, which is the unfermented juice produced by the grapes. To begin with, the grapes are picked by hand instead of by machinery, which would cause bruising – damaged grape skins are prone to mould and the merest hint of mould can ruin the entire batch.
The grapes are then crushed and cooked down for days, to create a thick, black, caramelised must, after which the skin and seeds are filtered out.
The vinegar is then stored into progressively small barrels (known as a battery) to ferment. The barrels can be made from oak, chestnut, ash, and cherry to infuse different flavours into the balsamic. While the balsamic vinegar ages in the barrels, the flavour intensifies, becoming sweet and concentrated.
This ageing period has a minimum waiting time of 12 years. Having aged 12 years, Affinato Balsamic is produced, but this can continue for up to 25 years, to produced Extravecchio Balsamic, which is around the 1.35 mark in density.
A similar process to that of Balsamico Tradizionale PDO is used. Here, the same method to create the cooked grape must is used, but it is then blended with wine vinegar, fusing the un-acidified must with the acidic wine vinegar, causing a fermentation, to become the resulting balanced balsamic character.
It is then decanted into wooding casks from oak and chestnut to ash and cherry. The length of time it is left in the wooden barrels determines its identity – if it is matured, it will have been in the barrels from between 2 months to 3 years, and if it is classed as aged it will be in the wooden barrels for more than 3 years.
Trebbiano grapes – the white half of the famed balsamic duo, Trebbiano and Lambrusco – are matured through a similar process to other forms of balsamic vinegar, but the fermentation is kick started with white wine vinegar instead of red.
It has a complex flavour where an initial sweetness quickly yields to a gentle acidity, giving a rich, sweet and sour effect.
“In Modena people eat balsamic vinegar every day, with every type of meal. Green salad, pasta, meat, fish. There’s even an ice cream shop that specialises in traditional balsamic ice cream… I think that’s a bit too much!” -Alessandro, our Balsamic partner
Tiny jelly-enclosed spheres of Balsamic vinegar, that explode with flavour when you bite them. Adds a touch of theatre and excitement to salads, steaks, and even desserts.
Borettane onions are preserved in balsamic vinegar for a beautiful blend of sweetness and acidity. The Borettane is a mild, sweet Italian pearl onion that is flat, almost saucer-like in shape.
These sweet Balsamic Semi-Dried Tomatoes are ideal for sharing platters and canapés. They are full of flavour and a colourful addition to any dish.
Balsamic vinegar can be used in many different recipes. From hearty savoury meals to sweet, mouth-watering desserts, balsamic vinegar can be added to them all. Here is a list of our favourite recipes with balsamic vinegar:
From the 25 Year Old ‘Extra Vecchio’ to the White Condimento of Modena, we provide one of the finest selections of balsamic vinegars in the industry. Discover the sweet taste of Balsamic Vinegar from our online shop today.