July 19, 2010
The Great Balsamic Search
Last week we flew over to Italy on the search for the world’s very best vinegar. This may seem like a bit of a trek just to find one ingredient, but we know that every detail has to be perfect when it comes to creating delicious Italian food.
Italians are incredibly passionate about balsamic vinegar, especially the citizens of Modena, in the north of Italy. Italian law states that for a vinegar to be officially called ‘balsamic’, it has to be made in Modena, no exceptions. It’s this passion that we love at Zizzi, the same passion that drives our head chef Angelo to continually create new and exciting dishes with true Italian inspiration and flair.
Our search for the world’s best balsamic vinegar took us to a traditional Italian and beautiful supplier’s farm called Nero Modena. The farm is owned and run by a lovely lady called Marina whose family has been making balsamic for generations.
After a tour of the stunning farm, Marina showed us the traditional method used to produce the oldest and purest balsamic vinegar – Balsamic Traditionale. This pure, untainted balsamic is produced from Lambrusca and Trebbiano grapes crushed into a pulp and then lovingly tendered over time into a truly luxurious and wonderful product.
The ‘must’ (the fermenting grape juice) is poured into small barrels to ferment in the summer and cool and clarify in the winter over many years. The barrels are made from a range of woods, each of which gives its own flavour to the must. Every spring, Marina tops up each of the barrels with liquid from the barrel next to it, mixing the flavours together, which ultimately produces a richer vinegar.
The result of Marina’s care, passion and attention to detail is after 25 years, a tiny amount of thick, brown heaven in a bottle. We tasted it as you would a wine, watching it coat the inside of the glass and taking in its rich, sugary, complex aroma before it touched our lips. Absolutely delicious. But at almost £60 per bottle, it’s no wonder that Marina sells only 12 bottles of Balsamic Traditionale a month!
The product that we all know and love is called Balsamic di Modena. Balsamic di Modena isn’t left to age for as long, so although it’s taste is still distinctively balsamic and delicious, it isn’t as thick and syrupy as the Balsamic Traditionale.
Marina is very proud of how she makes hers. Rather than being a slave to 21st century manufacturing methods, she injects the best elements from the Traditionale method into the more industrialised approach used for Balsamic di Modena.
The result? Vinegar that tastes like no other.