The sweet type of vinegar-based dressing known as Balsamic Vinegar originates from a region in Italy known as Modena. Balsamic has become a staple in local cuisine and the distinguished flavor has made the region world famous.
Traditional balsamic vinegar is made from Trebbiano grapes and occasionally, Lambrusca grapes. Through years of experimentation, it was discovered that these grapes were not well suited for wines, so the Italians were pressed to find another use for them. The process of creating the vinegar was similar to that of wine, and it’s discovery happened quite by accident.
Today, the process of creating balsamic vinegar is almost the same as it was back when it was first created. Wine barrels made from woods such as mulberry, chestnut, oak, or cherry are collected. The type of wood chosen for the barrel correlates to the resulting flavor of the balsamic. Next, the grapes are harvested at the peak of ripeness. Each barrel is filled with the ripe grapes.
If you have ever seen (or participated in) grape squashing, you know what comes next. Today, grapes are squashed using machines – but historically, villagers would get together and stomp on the grapes with their bare feet until they were turned into a pulp and juice.
The resulting grape mush is pressed through a sieve so that the juice is separated from the pulp and skin of the grapes. The juice is boiled in large kettles for a full 24 hours. It is during this point that most of the liquid evaporates from the juice and it is turned into a sweet syrup known as mosto.
The mosto is then fermented and aged in the wooden barrels for 6 or more months. During this time, more liquid is allowed to evaporate. Like wine, the longer a balsamic ages, the “better” it is. Our balsamic vinegar is a combination of 16 to 18 year barrel aged balsamic with a very low acidity. The special aging process makes it very smooth with no bite.
Once the aging process is complete, the balsamic is transferred to glass bottles (like ours!) and sold in markets across the world.
Congratulations, you are an expert in the aging process of balsamic vinegar!