We’ve briefly touched on the process of making vinegar before, but today we’ll be revealing the process in depth. It’s much like making wine, but with just a few key differences.
Most balsamic vinegar is made from two kinds of grapes - Trebbiano and Lambrusco. Both of these varieties are found naturally in the Modena and Reggio Emilia regions of northern Italy. Workers crush the grapes, and the skin and pulp are filtered through a sieve leaving only the juice behind. The juice is then simmered anywhere between 12-24 hours over an open flame. This process can be tricky as there are many fine regulations that must be followed for the result to be considered a traditional balsamic. Heating the grape juice like this allows the sugars and acids to concentrate into a delicious syrup called a “must,” as in you definitely must try it as a condiment sometime.
The aging process is a long one, but the resulting artisanal balsamic is well worth the wait. The grape must ferment for several months in a large wooden barrel. After that, a portion of it is put inside a smaller barrel, and the larger one is refilled, and the wait continues. This keeps going on so that there are typically five barrels, the last one being the smallest. Once the liquid is withdrawn from the fifth barrel, you have a quality, traditional balsamic vinegar! It’s possible to age the vinegar further to enhance the natural flavor, or age it with other fruits to create stunning taste combinations.
The process takes at least nine years. However, due to the refilling process, each bottle of vinegar is made up of several different batches of grape must mix over the years. One mistake in grape harvesting or must making could have an impact on the quality of the vinegar for years! The Italians have refined this process over a thousand years. So when you taste our variety of flavors of balsamic vinegar, you are tasting a part of history, in more sense than one.