The aroma of Italian quality
The story behind traditional balsamic vinegar
Written by Maaike de Reuver on Monday 9 April 2018
Centuries of tradition inside each bottle...
Italy… land of fashion, attention to beauty, and love for quality. Combine these elements into a single product and the result is balsamic vinegar, perhaps the most beautiful thing to come out of the rich Italian cuisine. And this goes double for the balsamico produced at Il Borgo del Balsamico. Their bottles of viscous gold are beautifully designed and feel like a princely gift. Inside each bottle is centuries of Italian tradition to smell and taste and enjoy.
From fashion to food
Up until around fifteen years ago, sisters Cristina and Silvia Crotti both had successful careers in fashion. With an eye for quality and careful attention to detail they worked in the family business that their father started. This meant that their father, in turn, could spend more time crafting traditional balsamico in the attic of his country estate. His enthusiasm for balsamic vinegar spread to his daughters and soon they cared more for the crafting of that fine fluid than for marketing the next clothing line. The family decided to sell their fashion business and focus full time on balsamico production. Successfully, because Il Borgo del Balsamico has grown into one of the most respected authentic producers of balsamic vinegar in the world.
Tradition dictates balsamico is made from late season trebbiano grapes. This particular type of grape only grows near Modena in northern Italy. The freshly pressed grape juice (must, as it’s known in the wine world) is then gently heated in open casket. Once cooled, the liquid is transferred to wooden barrels and aged balsamic vinegar is added. These barrels aren’t uniform, their size and type of wood varies. The barrels are then stored in the attic, where temperature between summer and winter tends to shift dramatically. These drastic temperature changes help thicken the liquid. During the fermentation process the flavor and scent of the wood is absorbed by the balsamico. Every year, 10% of the syrup in each barrel is added to a different barrel. The variation of chestnut, cherry, oak, and mulberry gives the balsamico a unique and incredibly rich aroma and flavor. Over time, the naturally occuring sugars transform first into alcohol, and then into acetic acid. By repeating this process multiple times over a period of at least 12 years the vinegar is given it’s supreme character. Il Borgo del Balsamico produces around 400 liters of balsamic vinegar a year. Those with a similar eye for detail know that the seal of quality on each bottle means the process has been thoroughly vetted and approved to be called original aged balsamic vinegar.
Because demand for their products has grown exponentially over the past years, the sisters started a production line for regular balsamic vinegar ten years ago. Near the family estate you can now find a production facility capable of producing 500,000 liters of balsamico every year. The quality is still excellent, but because the balsamic vinegar produced here is only aged for a single year instead of twelve, it is not allowed to carry the official aged balsamico seal. The result is a more accessible, qualitatively outstanding product.
65% of orders at Il Borgo del Balsamico are shipped internationally. Most go to Germany, but top chefs from places as far as Dubai or even Singapore cannot get enough of this product.
Balsamico is known to enhance existing flavors, and as such has a home in many dishes. A few drops of aged balsamico are enough to bring flavor to even the blandest dish.
Il Borgo del Balsamico, Via Albinea Chiesa 27, Botteghe, Italië
Photography: Chantal Arnts & Il Borgo del Balsamico
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