Balsamic vinegars and cooked musts were used since the III millennium BC in Asia and Africa. The tradition was exported to Greece, then to Rome and the vinegar was used to preserve and dress foods. The typical cruet containing vinegar called acetabulum was always present on the Roman table.
The first historic evidence of the production of cooked grape juice is an ancient funeral painting found in Egypt which witnesses that this practice dates back to 1000 BC. The first written documents regarding the cooked grape juice date back to the I centrury BC and describe how women would boil the grape juice and remove the typical foam and the skins. The vingar was then stored and used after 1 year. However the product was much different than the actual one.
In the Middle Ages, in the Southern Alps, vinegars were very much diffused such as the use of wooden casks. Barrels are containers of celtic origins used for maritime trade not very popular among the Roman people who preferred terracotta amphoras.
The first written evidence about vinegar dates back to the XI century when a Benedictine monk describes the one produced in Matilde di Canossa's castle, near Reggio Emilia as the best one. The monk tells that the future emperor of France, Enrique II sent a messenger to Canossa to get this excellent balsamic vinegar. For the first time the word "balsamic" is referred to the vinegar produced in our region. However, nobles generally still preferred the agresto a vinegar obtained by cooked grape juice but flavored with spices, while the farmers used the balsamic vinegar.
The fortune of the balsamic vinegar started in the Renaissance when it became an ingredient of the most refined plates and was always present on the nobles' table. Thanks to the Este family, the balsamic vinegar became famous all over Europe. At the Este duchy, balsamic vinegar was produced not only for table use, but was also used as a medicament and donated as a present to the most important guests. It is said that Lucrezia Borgia, duchess of Ferrara, used the balsamic vinegar during her delivery to ease the pain.
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is the result of the fermentation of boiled must obtained from crushed Trebbiano and other traditional grapes of Modena, such as Lambrusco. The grapes are pressed to obtain grape juice, which is poured into open cooking vats. It is then boiled over an open fire where it is reduced and slowly concentrated. The cooked must is dark, tasty and perfumed and rich in sugars. Once ready, the must is placed in big barrels and, afterwards, in a group of casks of different capacity and wood (oak, chestnut, cherry, juniper, etc.). The groups of casks, called a batteria, are stored in the loft of the houses.
Traditional Balsamic vinegar is PDO certified Italian product such as Parmesan Cheese, Prosciutto di Parma and Modena and many others.
Don't miss out the opportunity to visit a balsamic vinegar producer during your next visit to Emilia to discover this great product under the scenes! Join one of our amazing tours FOOD & FERRARI and YUMMY ITALY TOUR. During the tour you will have the possibility to buy balsamic vinegar direclty from the producer. From home you can purchase online on with FoodEmilia.