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New Products in Balsamic Vinegar

In 1046, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III was given a silver bottle containing a celebrated vinegar while passing through a town on his way to his coronation. The record of this visit is thought to be the first written reference to balsamic vinegar, a sesoning once known only in Emilia-Romagna and produced only in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and neighboring Modena.

What is balsamic vinegar? Balsamic vinegar is a reduction made from grapes, but it is not considered a wine vinegar because the grape juice used is unfermented. The unfermented white sweet grape juice that is used is called must and comes from the Trebbiano grapes.

For the real deal, always look for the trems tradizionale/DOC or aceto balsamico di Modena. Very cheap balsamic vinegars are just masquerading as either of the above and will have been coloured and flavoured with caramel - although they're fine for salad dressings and glazes, they won't have the authentic intensity of flavour.

The grape must, cooked over a direct heat in an open vessel, simmers slowly and is concentrated until it is reduced to about one third of its original volume. It is then placed in the attic, in a series of casks of decreasing size and of different woods: oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry and at times juniper. Here the balsamic vinegar passes the years acidifying, aging until it has reached a balance that only the alchemy of time can master, prodded along by the masterful hands of man who knows the ancient rules of the transfers and top ups.