Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bologna - After stuffing ourselves with Parmigiano-Reggiano, we headed to our second destination on our foodie tour - the Acetaia.

The Acetaia, located just outside of Bologna, is where an Italian couple makes the famous Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena - a balsamic vinegar that must be aged a minimum of 12 years. Since 1947, this family has produced balsamic vinegar at this location. This “career” happened serendipitously after a family member discovered several old wooden barrels - filled with aged balsamic vinegar - under the eaves of the villa.
One of the 12-plus-year-old bottles of balsamic vinegar that we purchased.
“This is the godfather of balsamic vinegar,” Alessandro Martini, owner of Italian Days Food Experiences, told us.

What I was most intrigued by was the batterie - a series of wooden barrels decreasing in size and made of different woods, which is used to age the balsamic vinegar. A minimum of five barrels is needed to create a batterie.

Last year, Martini told us he started his own batterie with his girlfriend, Barbara, when their daughter was born. According to Italian tradition, a couple begins a batterie when the first child, often a daughter, is born. Every year, grape must is added to top up the largest barrels. Then, “aged” grape must from the preceding barrel is added to the successive barrel and so on. Years later, when the child marries, she/he receives the batterie as a gift and has her/his own lovingly produced balsamic vinegar. What a wonderful tradition!
Martini with his batterie at the Acetaia.
“Only after 12 years can you harvest from the first barrel,” he said.

After 12 years, 1 liter is extracted from the smallest barrel of each row and is submitted to the taste testers of the D.O.P. for approval. 1 liter only yields 10 100-milliliter bottles! If the vinegar is 25 years old or more, it can be labeled extra vecchio (extra old). The whole process requires a lot of work and patience - so the end product becomes a labor of love.

Later in the year, the Lambrusco and Trebbiano grapes are harvested, which Martini will assist with here so he can top off his batterie. After the grapes are pressed, the uncooked grape juice or must is boiled until it reduces, then cooled and dispersed among the barrels, which are stored in the attic and left to age. (You can learn more about the process here.)
 Here you can see some of the grape vines growing on the land surround the villa.
Another fact, Martini said, authentic balsamic vinegar should only contain grape must - no caramel coloring, red wine vinegar or anything else. Makes sense - why would you want to eat caramel coloring?
Of course, I had to smell the balsamic vinegar in the barrels.
After seeing the villa, we tasted the different kinds of vinegar. The younger vinegar (technically called balsamico condimento della villa) had a bit more acidity and punch to it while the older vinegar seems to develop more of a caramel-like sweetness - at least to me.
Why not - balsamico condimento drizzled on fresh gelato! Yum!
I can’t wait to drizzle some of our Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena on the Parmigiano-Reggiano we brought back to Istanbul.

Mangia Bene!

Acetaia Villa San Donnino
Modena, Italy

Tagged: , ,


Julia said...

I love balsamic vinegar. You guys really are eating your way through Italy aren't you?! Seems like you;re having a really good time. :)