Balsamic Vinegar FAQ
BALSAMIC VINEGAR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHAT'S SPECIAL ABOUT BATISTINI FARMS DARK BALSAMIC VINEGARS?
Each batch is handcrafted using the old traditions, recipes, and mastery involvement of family members of highly skilled artisans in Modena, Italy. Strict consortium guidelines are followed and monitored. The wine grapes are grown in the region and cooked grape must is the most important ingredient but that does not mean a cooked grape must equals a good balsamic. Each handcrafted batch is a “masterpiece” of art meeting demands of ones desiring a higher quality including some James Beard chefs. The grapes, recipes, types of casks, tending to the casks, and the artistry of the artisans all play an important role in the outcome of the Batistini Farms balsamic vinegars made with seven varieties of regional grapes like Trebbiano and Lambrusco. Modena's climate is also key to the fermentation and maturation of the grape must as a result of stark changes in temperatures from scorching summers to freezing winters assisting in additional reduction by fermentation in barrels of various wood species.
The bouquet should be pleasant, delicate, a bit acidic, with woody notes finished by a bittersweet but balanced flavor.
Balsamic vinegar is bittersweet with complex flavors.
HOW IS WOOD BARREL AGED BALSAMIC VINEGAR PRODUCED?
It starts with the hand picked grapes during harvest months beginning in September. Quality is important. Grape must is the result of fresh, pressed, crushed grapes (juice, skins, pips). The skins and pips are separated before the grape must is reduced by 30 – 50%. This involves skillful cooking over open flame in vats for about 24 – 30 hours. The process must be slow to retain the fresh grape flavors during the reduction. They must go through a natural fermentation and acetification process that continues to reduce the must. The recipe is placed in wood barrels of decreasing sizes, allowing space in the barrel. Each barrel has a thin, translucent fabric covering an opening to allow natural reduction by evaporation. A transfer of grape must into smaller barrels made of various wood species occurs each year during the aging process. The aromas of the woods like oak, chestnut, cherry, mulberry, and juniper are absorbed during this part of the fermentation.
Experience of the trade comes to play since the rules vary among artisans and the accomplished taster.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN (TRADITIONAL BALSAMIC VINEGAR or TRADIZIONALE) and “BALSAMIC VINEGAR OF MODENA” IF IT IS PRODUCED IN MODENA, ITALY?
The production of a quality balsamic vinegar embraces a special artistry, a reduction of grape must, and slow fermentation in wood barrels with a variety of wood species to achieve the organoleptic properties. Each step is monitored with strict guidelines.
“Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale Di Modena) is found at very expensive prices on a limited basis. It is made with 100% cooked grape must, typically Trebbiano, but other regional wine grapes may be used. The entire process undergoes strict supervision by the Consortium. Once it is approved, it is bottled at the Consortium in a distinctive 3.4 ounce, 100 ml, glass bulb shaped bottle. It is marked with special seals including a hologram. Batistini Farms may feature our “Traditional” on a limited basis but most of our customers prefer more reasonably priced below the hundreds of dollars.
A beacon of the “Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” is “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena”, which comes at a more attractive price. If made right, consumers should be able to enjoy a quality balsamic vinegar by highly qualified artisans, who care about the artistry and excellence of ingredients, recipes and the entire production process.
Not all vinegars marked “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” are created equal. For Batistini Farms, our “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena” is made with grapes from the region like Trebbiano, Lambrusco, Montuni, etc. The ingredients are grape must and a small percentage of vinegar from the acetification of wine (a natural fermentation). It’s not like typical wine vinegars. An additional reduction takes place by fermentation in barrels of various wood species. The climate in this region is believed to play an important role in the fermentation and maturation of the grape must due to stark changes in temperatures, from their scorching summers to freezing winters. Environmental conditions, the grapes, the recipes, the types of casks used, the tending to the casks, and the artistry of the artisans all play an important role in the outcome of the “Balsamic Vinegar of Modena”. The bouquet should be pleasant, delicate, a bit acidic, with woody notes finished by a bittersweet but balanced flavor.
DOES PRICE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
It’s like art. The masterpiece usually cost more than the copy, however, collectors have unknowingly purchased a copy at the price of a masterpiece. Distinguish a difference in taste and quality, and also review the ingredients.
WHAT IS A BALSAMIC “CONDIMENT”?
“Condiment” is expressed as “Condimento” in Italian. It is often used for balsamic vinegar that does not quite fit the rigorous standards to be called a balsamic vinegar. For example, the acidity must be 6% to be called a balsamic vinegar in Modena but a vinegar in the USA is a minimum of 4% acidity at the time of this posting. In addition, maturity could have missed the minimum years required to be named a "Traditional" balsamic vinegar. It may also have a small percentage of wine vinegar instead of 100% cooked grape must, or perhaps the designated supervision was not completely met. Always look at the ingredients for an indication of quality since condiments come in a variety of grades.
WHAT ABOUT THE WHITE BALSAMIC?
The story is told that it became popular in more recent times as chefs requested a balsamic that keeps the transparency of their dish. Our Batistini Farms dark balsamic vinegars will have cooked grape must as the first ingredient, but the must becomes darker as it is cooked. Another alternative to keep the white balsamic as transparent as possible is to refrain from the cooking reduction like our Batistini Farms Vanishing Grape white balsamic vinegar of Modena, Italy by reducing through concentration of the grapes to a must.
DOES THICK MEAN BETTER?
Taste is the most notable quality, although density plays an important role. Color, acidity, viscosity, type of grapes, ingredients, recipes, harvest, and other production skills of the Modena artisans all play a role in the outcome of the balsamic vinegar. A sugary dense balsamic made with caramel and added thickeners lack the harmonious symphony of the complex flavors and sweetness for the most sophisticated palate.
WHAT IS A BALSAMIC GLAZE?
Balsamic vinegars can have density but there are also glazes for culinary uses. A balsamic glaze was introduced to give chefs options for an elaborate decoration on a plate. Check the ingredients since many glazes usually have a bit of color (caramel), cornstarch, and sugar added.
WHAT ABOUT VINEGARS THAT CONTAIN CARAMEL?
Caramel is an additive; it is not necessary in the production of Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.