Continuing on my food adventures in Modena, right after my visit to a Parmigiano Reggiano factory on the outskirts of the city, I am headed to Acetaia Di Giorgio, where they make the black gold of Italian cuisine. It was located in the city of Modena, perhaps only around a 20 mins walk away from the city centre. I took a cab straight from 4 Madonne Caseificio dell’Emilia and the ride probably took about 10 mins or so. Traffic is not an issue here at all and the cab ride cost 17 Euros. Acetaia Di Giorgio is one of the most famous brands in producing Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP. Acetaia Di Giorgio is a family run business and produce only for the very best chefs in the world and sold in limited qualities. Everything is handmade and monitor for generations in the Barbieri family!
Located in their 1870 family residence lies Acetaia Di Giorgio where most of the ageing process takes place in the attic of the house. Laying my eyes on it, it seems kind of difficult to believe that the house is a place where the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar are produced, on the outside it just look like any typical Italian house. First of all let me share a bit on the Acetaia. Acetaia Di Giorgio welcomes everyone to visit them. It is more of a intimate affair, you get to know the history of the Acetaia, how they make the product, how the DOP of Modena is applicable and the various rules and regulation in order to ensure the product maintain the quality of being an Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP. I also love the little family story behind the family and how they even start making a series of vinegar when their daughter carlotta are born, and now when she is married it served as her dowry.
It was definitely on the small scale when compared to the huge commercialised cheese factory that I visited earlier. When I first entered I was welcomed by Giorgio and Giovanna, the current generation of the Barbieri family, where they currently run the place and the production. They are helped by their daughter, Carlotta and her husband. The place of production is actually their family house and I was invited to have a seat where we wait for a couple others. In the end there was around 6 of us who were given the tour by them. All of us were interested in the production of the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP, which is known as the black gold of cooking, where a tiny bottle cost you a fortune. Upon entering, you can get to aroma of vinegar filling up the whole place which is refreshing and unique. It is surely the first time that I have been in such a house.
We went up to the attic and the tour first started out my telling us all the information on the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP. We were also told the story behind the Balsamic Vinegar in Modena, how it is made, how it is discovered. To cut thing short, it somehow came about when people found an expired bottle of wine where most of the liquid have been evaporated. Then they discovered the residue of this thick, dark liquid left behind. Now the mimic it and make it fresh from the juices of the grape. The reason why true balsamic vinegar is so expensive is because of the arduous process in making it. It is a long and slow one. Thru ageing in barrels, the vinegar gets concentrated and layered in flavours. In fact much of the acidity of the vinegar gets tinted out and it actually taste sweet. In fact one of the usage of the balsamic vinegar is finishing touch on ice cream.
We then have a little walkthrough through the attic and have a look at the different series of barrels that they have. The making process are ancient, where it comes from generations by generations, handing down by their ancestors. Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP must follow a certain standard of rules and are regulated, however there are a few personal touches that are past down by family. First the grapes must be from Modena then they are cooked over an open flame until the concentration is at least 50%. The most hard process is the ageing part. Where even the lowest grade of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOP must be aged for a minimum of 12 years.
Each series of balsamic vinegar ageing process consists of barrels of different sizes, from big to small. At every year when the balsamic vinegar are evaporated the smaller one will be top up by the next larger barrel contents. The process continues on and on. Every year, using a special method of decanting, the smallest cask of the sequence provides a few liters of the products, while the reduction due to concentration is compensated for by the addition of cooked grape-must to the largest cask.
One of the very touching story that I am told is the series of Balsamic Vinegar that is named Carlotta 1986, after their daughter Carlotta They made this vinegar when their daughter was born. It is their family tradition to do it and in the future it will be as a dowry from them. It is one of the most special and priced product, be it for the flavour and hard work, but also this little sweet story that makes it so much special when you are tasting it. Have a taste of it makes me think of the effort and time that a parents spend on their child. Making and managing the ageing of the Carlotta 1986 for more than 30 years surely aren’t an easy task.
The last part of the tour would definitely be the tasting process. I love that the Acetaia Di Giorgio is super generous with it. We try almost all of their products and it is very intimate, it feels like a Balsamic Vinegar Masterclass. We try all of them and know the difference in texture and flavour. The sharpness and sweetness of each different product. How the taste is affected by time and grapes of certain year. The older the vinegar it is more thick and sweet. While certain product are more powerful and spicy. We were almost given a teaspoon each to try. Each of them cost more than a hundred euros for a small bottle. With some even cost more than 350 Euros.
I hope this sparkes your little interest in Balsamic Vinegar. In fact, it is the only vinegar that I actually like. I like it as a finishing touch, on some cheese or fried stuff. The tart and sweetness cut through the saltiness and greese of the food. When you are buying true Traditional Balsamic Vinegar. Always makes sure to check for the seal and there are only two product that are considered legitimate, Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena DOP and Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia DOP. If you would like to visited them, just sent them an email and you will always be welcomed.