Numerous bottles labeled Balsamic Vinegar can be found today in most grocery stores. However, there is balsamic vinegar and then there is "Balsamic Vinegar". One need not be a connoisseur to tell the difference because the difference in taste is quite obvious.
The region of Emilia-Romagna in Central Italy between Milan and Florence as well as the towns of Modena and Reggio are the most notable production areas balsamic vinegar which refers to specialty vinegars aged in wood.
The prized Balsamico Tradizionale is very much like a fine wine. It is generally produced from Trebbiano grapes which are picked and then left in the sun for further ripening to increase the sugar level. These are crushed and pressed into a juice and then simmered in open pots for 24-30 hours. This unfermented juice is cooled, allowed to settle and then placed in the first of a series of barrels to age. The vinegar first goes through alcoholic fermentation and then acetic oxidation. In other words, the sugars turn into alcohol which turns into acid which converts the liquid into vinegar.
The barrel is filled only to 66-75% capacity so further evaporation and condensation occurs. After one year, the vinegar is transferred to a smaller barrel, for further oxidation, and so it continues yearly. Each barrel is of a different type of wood which imparts certain subtleties of flavors to the vinegar. The barrels most commonly used to impart flavor are oak, ash, juniper, mulberry, chestnut and cherry.
Unlike wine barrels these are stored in attics rather than cellars as the heat is beneficial to the process.
A minimum of 12 years of aging is required by law in order to be sold as balsamic tradizionale. Although 20-30 years aging is not uncommon in Modena.
This is a time intensive process and can become very costly. In addition the yield is approximately 30 gallons of balsamic vinegar from 800 gallons of grape must which explains the reason for small quantities competitively priced.
www.CyberCucina.com online store offers an extensive selection of fine balsamic vinegars of different types and price ranges. Stroll through the Vinegars Aisle to view their selection: Voila! It's that Simple!