In the province of Modena, vinegar makers are dedicated to making the most of the generosity of their land and the perfect climatic balance in order to obtain so-called Black Gold, a veritable balm certain to enrich any dish and delight the palate.
It all starts in September, with the harvest of local red and white grape varieties that are pressed to obtain their juice, which is then left to simmer away gently for over twenty hours. Thanks to this slow cooking and the caramelization of the sugar, the cooked must is thick and brown with an intense, fruity taste.
Once cooked, this veritable nectar is ready for acetic fermentation and prolonged aging in fine wooden barrels.
To produce Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, the only one certified PDO by the Protection Consortium of Spilamberto, the cooked must is the sole, exquisite ingredient added to the barrels and always kept in a loft space.
The ageing of a Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PDO takes place in a series of five or seven small casks of different woods, arranged in increasing order of capacity and, importantly, left open. This set of barrels is called a “battery” and forms a complete ageing cycle that lasts a minimum of twelve and up to twenty-five years.
Inside the casks, which are exposed to the temperature excursions of the loft space, the grape must ferments thanks to the action of acetobacteria, with partial evaporation taking place in summer months. In winter, the cold conditions of the loft halt any chemical reactions, allowing the intervention of the master vinegar maker, a custodian of local know-how and protagonist of a timeless traditional method.
The master initially withdraws a small amount of Balsamic Vinegar from the smallest cask in the battery; this is the oldest product, and the only one that is drawn off for bottling. At this point, the manual operation of “refilling and decanting” the barrels begins. With the help of a long glass pipette known as a “thief”, the master withdraws from the second cask the amount of product needed to top up the first, before moving on to the third barrel, from which he withdraws the product required to top up the second. He proceeds in this way until he has topped up the whole battery, introducing the youngest product, namely the cooked grape must fermented for a couple of years in a tank called a “badessa”, meaning mother barrel, into the largest cask.
This precious Black Gold, which is submitted for the careful evaluation of the Master Tasters and Experts of the ABTM Consortium, is classed “Affinato” when aged for a minimum of 12 years, and “Extravecchio” when it has been aged for at least 25 years. The PDO product is bottled by the Consortium itself in a small, iconic bottle designed by Giugiaro. The shape of the bottle is reminiscent of the traditional flask used to withdraw and taste the Balsamic Vinegar at various stages of production.
A mixture of cooked must and aged wine vinegar, meanwhile, is used to produce Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI, a product that meets the requirements of more flexible and permissive production specifications: the result is a versatile condiment with various nuances of texture and taste. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena PGI lends itself to countless uses in the kitchen and is characterized by superb versatility.
Acetaia Giusti also embraces its role as standard bearer of this ancient and fascinating art, opening the doors of its vinegar loft to visitors eager to immerse themselves in this Modenese tradition, surrounded by centuries-old casks and the heady aromas of wood and balsamic notes.
Come and discover this quintessentially Modenese product of excellence, with a tour of Casa Giusti!