Understanding Our Balsamic Condimento of Modena, Italy
We refer to our dark balsamic as, “Traditional Style Condimento, Aged up to 18 years.” Our dark condiment is of the highest quality and is made in Modena, Italy from cooked, high quality caramelized grape must from Tebbiano and on occasion, Lambrusco grapes. The grape must in our condiment is cooked over an open wood fire, just as actual DOP Traditional Balsamic grape must is. It is cooked down to the same consistency, density and dry solid extracts. DOP Traditional Balsamic dictates that wood-fire-cooked grape must is then put directly into old, fired wood barrels which were used to age balsamic in years past. These barrels become progressively smaller as the product becomes thicker and naturally evaporates over time.
The barrels as well as the product they once contained, add character to the must over time. Nothing is ever added to the cooked, caramelized must of DOP Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. Probiotic wild yeast and acetic bacteria colonize it and eventually raise the acidity. It slowly ages in this manner and turns into “vinegar” by itself over the course of many years., hence the scarcity and price tag. By Italian law, it must then be tested for quality by measuring many criteria, including, and most importantly, the dry extract solids. It can then only be sold in tiny bottles, which are identical, based on two exclusive regions of production, Emilio Reggiano or Modena, Italy. The bottles from each region are uniform in size and shape regardless of who produced the balsamic. If a particular producer’s balsamic meets very strict criteria, it is then certified DOP, wax sealed and numbered for individual sale. The wax sealed numbered bottles, into which it is placed, must only be sold in a box set, never as a loose bottle by itself. It is never sold in other types of bottles or in bulk, EVER! This product is never used for cooking. It is far too prized and expensive. It is served drop by drop on a spoon after a meal and sometimes on a small piece of cheese.
We urge you to open a tiny, wax sealed and numbered bottle of DOP Balsamic and compare it with our Traditional Style Balsamic Condimento of Modena, Italy. The similarity is remarkable. The primary difference between DOP Balsamic and our condiment is that out of the gate ours is inoculated with a very small amount of premium quality aged red wine vinegar (>2%) which introduces the natural acetic bacteria and yeast and begins the process from cooked grape must, to Balsamic Vinegar Condimento. It is then aged using the Solera method, which means that it goes through a succession of different types of very old fired wood barrels, each of which previously contained residual amounts of older balsamic dating back as far as 18 years, and in some cases 25 years. It is topped off as it moves from barrel to smaller barrel, based on the Solera method, with younger cooked grape must as it naturally evaporates. For this reason, no product including actual DOP certified balsamic in licensed bottles can make an actual age claim – ever!
We can accurately and confidently say that our product has been “aged for up to 18 years”, but please note that age is not a meaningful criteria of quality. Our condimento’s very low acidity of 4.5% is a function of the grape must being naturally cooked down, condensed and aged without the addition of thickeners and sweeteners, unlike so many “balsamic-like” products on the market. Many of these imposters are not from Modena and are comprised almost wholly of poor quality un-aged wine or distilled vinegar, thickeners, color, artificial flavor, syrups or sweeteners. The density and complexity of our condimento are a testament to the fact that it’s made in Modena in the “traditional style” from high quality grape must, which has been cooked over an open wood fire and then aged using the Solera system. Our condiment contains the highest level of grape dried extract solids, which is one of the most important criteria used to measure and certify the Traditional DOP Balsamic Vinegar sold exclusively in the small consortium licensed bottles.