Rich in structure and history, the so-called black gold of Modena is fruit of the accurate artisan Modenese tradition and it represents the very essence of the territory to which it belongs.
Balsamic Vinegar is a journey through centuries, boasting ancient and mysterious origins. Thus, it is hard to define precisely who discovered it and invented and refined its recipe.
Among the earliest literary records, we find poet Virgil’s words, revealing how it was a widespread custom in ancient Roman times to cook the must of grapes. It was such a common activity in the area of Modena that people coined a specific Latin verb: defrutare.
Apicius himself, a chef in ancient Rome, mentioned the saba, a Modenese term still used to define cooked must. He suggested to add saba as a syrup to sweet-and-sour preparations. Although it cannot be stated certainly, it is likely that the Roman saba experienced the first transformation into Balsamic Vinegar, fermenting inside the jars where it was stored.
If the ancient Romans accidentally discovered the Balsamico by neglecting cooked must, it was the Estense Dukes who made it famous, raising its value and refining its production method.
In the west tower of the Ducal Palace in Modena, the Estense Dukes of Modena set up their own acetaia. An attic where they mature and take care of a product of excellence, in 1747 finally defined as «balsamic vinegar» in the court registers.
Thanks to the Estense Dukes, the Modenese black gold starts travelling, being offered as a gift to European courts, brought to the tables of important personalities of the time.
Throughout the 1800s, the production of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena comes into focus, largely thanks to Francesco Aggazzotti, leading figure in the Modenese environment. He writes down in a comprehensive and accurate manner the procedure for producing such coveted elixir. Aggazzotti’s detailed letter was so extensive, that it was adopted to define the production and quality standards that inspired the establishment of the Consorteria for Traditional Balsamic Vinegar certified DOP in 1967.
A deep connection between family roots and territory
Even though the Balsamico is nowadays a worldwide spread condiment, sought for its versatility and deliciousness, its origins date back to the attics of Modenese houses and the ancient family traditions.
The name itself reveals a completely different initial use than today. As a matter of fact, it was a “balm” with vaunted therapeutic properties, a natural remedy against various ailments, an excellent digestive, in short, a true panacea.
Modenese families used to leave their Balsamic Vinegars ripen in the home attic, with utmost discretion, handing down the family recipe in the greatest secrecy.
It was a common custom to start a “battery” of casks at the birth of a daughter, who would receive it as a dowry on the occasion of her marriage. After years and years of ageing, the Balsamic was offered as a precious gift on several occasions, to relatives and friends or as a token of gratitude to the family doctor. It was generally delivered in refined flasks, as a sign of its inestimable value and remarkable and patient effort recquired to obtain it.
The Modenese ritual of refilling and decanting the barrels, the years-long wait before the extraction of a good Balsamico, the synchrony with the slow rhythms of nature and the alternation of seasons and thermal conditions.
These are the secrets making the Black Gold of Modena inextricably tied to the territory and to the artisan know-how of the Modenese families, which bequeathed for centuries their casks and the golden rules to take care of them.
Discover the tradition, the history and the values of the Giusti family, the oldest vinegar makers in Italy, with deep and proud Modenese origins, passing on an ancient family recipe for over four centuries.