Countdown: Blog 133 – Guest post from Nicky on all things balsamic

With a passion for all processes artisan and traditional, a journey to Reggio Emilia in Italy this September will land me amongst the finest Balsamic Vinegar producers in the world.

Thanks to a helping hand from the amazing grant initiative provided by the Food and Development Fund SA and to my future instructional mentor Andrea Bezzechi of Acetatia San Giacomo (Novellara, Reggio Emilia), I’m sure we can get some fantastic ‘traditional’ Balsamic being produced in McLaren Vale.

A brief synopsis of traditional Balsamic Vinegar making

Authentic traditional balsamic vinegar follows a precise set of time honoured rules.  Generally, the grape varieties it is selected from are Lambrusco and Trebbiano.

The must which is obtained from the pressing of these grapes is cooked on direct heat-generally in steel vats for several hours until the must is reduced to approximately one third.

This must is then cooled and prepared for alcoholic fermentation.

Once alcoholic fermentation is complete, it is followed by acetic oxidation with the aid of the addition of acetobacteria (aged wine vinegar).

In the next phase it is transferred to oak casks starting at a capacity of 225 litres.  It is then decantered down to various size barrels of many different woods.  Typical woods are oak, chestnut, cherry, juniper and mulberry-ranging from 60 to 20 litres.

During the long aging process, the balsamic obtains different colour, flavour and consistencies, that come from the concentration and aromas of the different woods used.  ‘Traditional’  Balsamic is usually aged for a minimum of 12 years.

The picture shows a traditional ‘batteria’ or solera used for Balsamic.

Wish me luck in September and of course I will also sample the wine, Parmigiano, pasta, gelati, coffee ………………………the list goes on.