Balsamico TradizionaleSHOP BALSAMICO TRADIZIONALE
For at least a millennium, Italy's province of Emilia-Romagna has been the source of one of nature's greatest, and rarest, gastronomic gifts, Balsamico.
Until the 1970's, Balsamico was never sold and was virtually never seen outside of its home-or if it did appear, it was in the guise of an imposter that bore no resemblance to the real thing. Even today, few Americans-including many among our culinary elite-have ever experienced the pleasures of real Balsamico.
Balsamico Tradizionale, as this nectar is now officially known, is luxuriously sweet and thick in texture, with a color that approaches ebony black. Its bouquet is one of the most intense imaginable, rivalling white truffles in its sybaritic power. And its concentration is so intense that just a few drops can transform a dish.
Balsamico Tradizionale is produced in and around two cities of Emilia-Romagna: Modena and Reggio-Emilia. It differs from nearly all other vinegars in that it is not made from wine or another fermented juice; it is made according to an ancient local recipe, from the juice of fresh, crushed grapes-cooked down to a fraction of its original volume. It is then aged in small casks for at least 12 years-and often for 25 to 30 years or more- under the eaves of local houses, in rooms called acetaie. It is an incredibly costly process, requiring a half ton of grapes to produce a gallon of 25-year-old Balsamico. The cities of Modena and Reggio-Emilia both produce Balsamico Tradizionale under strict regulations. However, we have chosen to focus on Modena, considered by many to produce the finest Balsamicos.
With its amazing concentration and complexity, there are infinite uses for Balsamico Tradizionale. It can be drizzled over aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, meats, fish, vegetables, fresh berries and melon, and ice cream-adding new dimensions to their flavors and aromas. Balsamico Tradizionale is very rare. As recently as 1991, less than 300 gallons were made in the entire Modena region. Today, production is somewhat greater; but still only a few specialty retailers in the United States have it available, and seldom more than one or two examples from a single producer are offered.
Venturing Into Balsamico
When we first tasted true artisanal Balsamico on a visit to Italy in 1993, we were struck by the parallels with great wine: the mesmerizing color, the compelling nuances of bouquet and the subtleties of taste. But the real test when we had the chance to compare more than two dozen different Balsamicos from a dozen producers. For all of their diversity and complexity-and the amazing level of quality-we could just as easily have been tasting great wines.
For years, we've wanted to do an offering that would do for Balsamico what our annual newsletters have done for Tuscan extra-virgin olive oil: assemble the finest selection available anywhere, and offer them with the greatest depth of information, and at the lowest prices, possible.