In Modena, Italy, local families continue the age old tradition of producing DOP (designated origin of protection) Modena balsamic vinegar in the attics of their family homes. It's one of Italy's most distinct regional foods. Touring the Villa San Donnino as part of the Italian Days Food Experience was an authentic taste of Emilia Romagna and a fascinating part of our food tour in Bologna.
In the small attic are 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.
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.
This “topping off” siphoning cascade continues on up the line, with young vinegar replacing the older vinegar that has moved down the line.
The largest barrel is then replenished with the cooked concentrate and all are then left to do nothing more than mature and age.
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.
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.
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, and it's the perfect introduction to Bologna for first timers. 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 when the day is done. Book your tour online or at the Bologna Welcome infopoint in Piazza Maggiore.