In the area of Reggio Emilia, balsamic vinegar is synonymous with culture and culinary tradition, handed down from generation to generation like a family heirloom.
Today the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is protected by the DOP mark, obtained in 2000, and produced with the denomination of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia.
The production process behind Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is like a journey. The cooked must from hand-picked grapes is first transferred to a “mother” barrel, before being poured into and aged in a batch composed of at least five barrels made out of specific wood, such as durmast, chestnut, mulberry or juniper, arranged in order from the largest to the smallest. Some of the balsamic vinegar that comes from this process is extracted from the smallest barrel and poured into each of the other bigger barrels.
Before becoming a condiment to enjoy with ourlocal food, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar undergoes a series of strict controls. In Reggio Emilia, the Consorzio Tutela Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia tests the quality of the product and classifies it as either Aragosta [bright orange], Argento [silver] or Oro [gold], depending on how long the vinegar has been aged for.
Reggio Emilia’s traditional balsamic vinegar is well-suited to traditional dishes such as roast pork, risottos and salads, as well as strawberries and ice cream. Each of these three categories also has its own specific pairings with food.
Balsamic vinegar in the Aragosta category, the least aged and therefore the most “vinegary” of the three, works beautifully with meat and fish carpaccio and crudités when used as a condiment, or with red meat and shellfish when added during cooking.
Balsamic vinegar in the Argento category, which has been aged for six to seven years more than the Aragosta category, is more sweet and sour on the palate owing to its more concentrated form: when used as a condiment, it is delicious with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. It can also be used to flavour risottos or a fillet of beef.
Lastly, there’s the Oro category. Aged for at least 25 years, balsamic vinegar in this league should only be used as a condiment (i.e. not added during cooking), either on its own or with strong-flavoured, spicy cheeses, or with chocolate or egg-cream based desserts.