balsamic vinegar


Balsamic vinegar is a very high quality vinegar from Modena, although it is too good to be thought of as vinegar. It is made from the boiled down and reduced must, called saba, of Trebbiano, Lambrusco, Occhio di Gatto, Spergola and Berzemino grapes and aged in a succession of barrels each constructed from different woods such as cherry, ash, chestnut, mulberry and oak. These are stored uncovered in exposed attics known as acetaia, which have fluctuating temperatures, rather than in controlled cellars. The liquid slowly evaporates, concentrating the unctuous remains. It is intensely sweet and is excellent in dressings and for deglazing meat juices.

Quality ranges from tradizionale through "qualità superiore" to "riserva" (at least 12 years old) and on to "extra vecchia" (at least 25 years old). The very best quality vinegars are called "for drinking" (da bere) while less good versions are called "for dressing" (da condire). There are many cheap imitations and shortcuts to produce the quantities now demanded by the market.

Look for 'tradizionale' on the label.


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