The O&O guide to Balsamic Vinegar
At O&O Deli we strive to work as closely with producers as we can, and this is certainly the case with the wonderful team at Giuseppe Giusti
What is balsamic vinegar and how is it made?
Balsamic vinegar is a very dark, concentrated and intensely flavoured vinegar made wholly or partially from ‘grape must’. ‘Grape must’ is freshly crushed grape juice with all the skins, seeds and stems.
There a three distinct types of balsamic vinegar:
- Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP
- Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia DOP
- Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP
Image: Map showing Modena and Reggio Emilia
As you can see from the three types, they originate from two distinct areas of Italy…that of Modena and that of neighbouring Reggio Emilia.
So what’s the difference between the different types of balsamic vinegar?
Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia DOP are in a sense the true balsamic vinegars. Made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. The resulting thick syrup is then aged for a minimum of 12 years in a battery of several barrels of successively smaller sizes, the casks are made of different woods such as chestnut, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash and juniper. True balsamic vinegar is rich, glossy, deep brown in colour, and has a complex flavour that balances the natural sweet and sour elements of the cooked grape juice with hints of wood from the casks.
Image: Traditional 'battery' method of balsamic production.
Reggio Emilia designates the different ages of their balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia) by label colour. A red label means the vinegar has been aged for at least 12 years, a silver label that the vinegar has aged for at least 18 years, and a gold label designates that the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more.
Modena uses a different system to indicate the age of its balsamic vinegars (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena). A white-coloured cap means the vinegar has aged for at least 12 years and a gold cap bearing the designation extravecchio (extra-old) shows the vinegar has aged for 25 years or more.
Image: Quality testing at Giuseppe Giusti
Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP – These are produced with the same ageing process but with the addition of a red wine vinegar.
Giuseppe Giusti Balsamic Vinegars
Giuseppe Giusti with a history dating back to 1605 (over 400 years), is not only the oldest balsamic vinegar producer, but it is the best. Acetaia Giusti is the proud guardian of the largest collection of historical barrels: in the Giusti attics there are 600 barrels from the 1700s and 1800s which are still producing Balsamic Vinegar. The older the barrel, the better the product will be, as the essences from the wood and the balsamic aromas that have matured together over the centuries are united.
We have been fortunate to visit this historic producer recently, our visit helped us understand the history and culture of this wonderful product.
Represented by 17th generation Giusti family Claudio, Francesca and Luciano who lead the company today, the history of the Giusti family is inextricably linked to the local area. Naturally over the centuries the Giusti vinegars have been recognised all over the world
Balsamic Vinegar when its produced with respect and tradition can be used in lots of both sweet and savoury dishes, we love to serve Giustis 3 Gold medal Balsamic Vinegar over Joe's vanilla Ice Cream.
Image: One of the rooms at Giuseppe Giusti containing some of their oldest batterys