I have always had an appreciation for balsamic vinegar, but it isn’t until I see the process with my own eyes that I fully realize why it is so special. Below are just a few reasons as to what’s all the fuss about balsamic vinegar:
For one thing, it takes a minimum of 12 years to create traditional balsamic vinegar.
What is more—after 12 years have passed, balsamic factories are only permitted to use ONE liter of balsamic vinegar from each set of barrels in which the vinegar is made (and one liter each subsequent year).
Real balsamic vinegar is only made in Modena, Italy. It is like Champagne—regionally specific. The altitude, soil and climate in Modena are essential for the proper fermentation and creation of balsamic vinegar.
Balsamic vinegar is made from the acetification of cooked grape juice. This juice (called must) is the only ingredient in balsamic vinegar. It is the changing of the seasons, humidity, temperature and time that allows the must to form into the dark nectar we love. Some knock-off vinegars add chemicals, flavoring and sweetening ingredients to create their products. C’mon now.
Making balsamic vinegar has been a time-honored tradition first documented in 1046. The very specific process has been passed down and preserved ever since.
Each and every bottle of balsamic vinegar is sent to the Italian consortium for approval. If approved, the consortium rebottles and sends it back with their labels of authenticity. Then, and only then, is it true balsamic vinegar.
As we spend the day at the balsamic factory, I think about what happened in my life during the last 12 years. Every one of those stages occurred while this balsamic was fermenting in these barrels.
And then I taste it. The taste comparison between this thick, sweet, complex and mind blowing traditional balsamic vinegar—and the thin, pungent, sharp and sorry explanation for balsamic vinegar on many grocery shelves—is like the difference between pro baseball and little league. It is definitely something to experience.
Next…making balsamic vinegar.