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Published: June 22nd 2017
Antonio, vinegar maker
This shows sets of six graduated barrels that are producing vinegar. With each set producing only 2 litres of vinegar per year (after 12 years) his annual production is very small. For reasons I did not comprehend he does not add more sets each year. His oldest sets are over 140 years old.
Geo: 44.5336, 10.9241
The traditional Modena method of making balsamic vinegar is surprisingly complex. In Antonio's great-grandfather's day the vinegar was mainly used as a medicinal tonic - a teaspoon after dinner. When a baby was born the family would lay down a set of six or seven graduated barrels: from 20 to 50 litres or so. After the harvest in Sep/Oct, the Trebbiano grapes would be pressed and the juice cooked (with no additives) at 85 deg for 12 hours. Then the reduced juice would be poured into the set of barrels. The barrels each have an opening covered with muslin to allow the juice to be oxidised into vinegar; a process taking more than six months. The warehouse is not insulated and the air temperature goes from -3 to 38 degrees, according to the season. The enzymes settle to the bottom of the barrel and convection currents in the summer "stir" the vinegar as it slowly evaporates.
Then each winter for 12 years all the barrels are topped up with the juice from the new harvest. After 13 years the vinegar is ready for bottling. 2 litres for bottling is taken by pipette from the smallest barrel. The barrel is then
The production floor
In this (relatively) small room are all the barrels in production at the Boni Acetaia.
topped up with vinegar from the next largest barrel, which is then topped up from the next largest barrel, and so on. The final (largest) barrel is topped up with newly reduced grape juice. In the 14th year, etc, another 2 litres is taken from the small barrel. As time goes on the vinegar in the smallest barrel becomes a blend of the previous 5 to 7 years.
Antonio sells vinegar aged 15, 30, 50 and 100 years old! Prices for a 100ml bottle range from €30-200: way more than most wines! We tried 15 and 30 year balsamic. The older was more acidic and quite syrupy, but surprisingly sweeter. We had it served (just a few drops) on cheese, strawberries, and even ice-cream! Excellent...
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