PhotoTour: Tasting Balsamic, Modena's Liquid Gold

In Modena, Italy, local families continue the age old tradition of producing balsamic in the attics of their family homes. Touring the Villa San Donnino was part of the Italian Days Food Experience, and a great way to taste Emilia Romagna. 

Villa San Donnino family Acetaia (atch-e-TIE-e), the attic where traditional balsamic is made

In the small attic, rows of 5-7 barrels, called a batteria, each decreasing in size from the largest at around 100 gallons and the smallest at about 10. Each barrel contains progressively older balsamic.

The batteria system progressively ages the liquid gold

Every winter, through a process called travasi, about 25% of the vinegar in the smallest barrel is removed and bottled, and younger vinegar from the barrel next in line replaces it.

used to check the progress of each barrel

This “topping off” siphoning cascade continues on up the line, with young vinegar replacing the older vinegar that has moved down the line.

Wood barrels leak balsamic on the floor

Wood barrels leak balsamic on the floor

The largest barrel is then replenished with the cooked concentrate and all are then left to do nothing more than mature and age.

An antique balsamic bottler

Interestingly, tradition dictates that the barrels of the batteria are never changed as the process would be interrupted by a “shock” to the product by using new wood.

This barrel is still in use after over 100 years

The product and the wood must grow­ together. If a barrel leaks, a new one is built around it. 

Allesandro saved the best for last. Tasting each product is the best way to experience just how much age has influenced the balsamic.

Tasting IGP 3 year old balsamic, the lesser quality of all we tried, but still a huge improvement over store bought balsamic vinegar.

Barrels are left open but covered with a cotton cloth to allow for evaporation

Tasting Condiment, a form of balsamic not regulated by DOP. Delicious, but not as rich in flavor as those aged much longer.

The slow drizzle of a 12 year old Balsamic di Modena. Extraordinary.

Which one here is King?

The gold band indicates this is the 25 year old Balsamic di Modena, though you can tell just by looking at it. One drop is pure heaven.

Balsamic jelly on fresh ricotta cheese

You may think balsamic on vanilla gelato sounds strange, but the taste was out of this world!

A selection of balsamic and other vinegars produced by Villa San Donnino

If You Go

 

The Italian Days Food Experience will ruin you for forever for Italy's most iconic foods, but in the best possible way. Alessandro puts his heart and soul into making it much more than a tour. You'll be a Parmigiano cheese convert and a balsamic lover after the day is done. Book your tour online or at the Bologna Welcome infopoint in Piazza Maggiore. 


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Authentic Balsamic, Modena, Italy